Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sterilization, race, votes

Jon Jeter in the Washington Post (June 13, 2004) on the racial politics of sterilization in Brazil. Excerpts below.

Trinidade, a local councilman, was running for the Bahia state legislature. He wanted [Claudia Barboza Santos'] vote. So they made a deal five years ago, and each got what they wanted: Trinidade arranged a sterilization procedure for Santos, and she voted for him...

Brazilian women are having fewer children. The fertility rate has decreased from 4.3 children per woman in 1980 to about 2 children now, according to government statistics. Nearly one in two Brazilian women of childbearing age have been sterilized, according to a 2001 government survey. Demographers and health experts believe the figure is even higher.

"We have a culture of sterilization in Brazil," said Jurema Werneck, executive director of Criola, a women's health organization here in Brazil. "It's nationwide. A lot of politicians are elected because of their sterilization promises."

Brazil's efforts have led to increased criticism from women's health organizations, civil rights agencies and relief workers who argue that sterilization is an ineffectual anti-poverty tool. They also contend that sterilization programs feed racist notions about who should have children and who should not...

You don't solve poverty by reducing family size," Werneck said. "You solve poverty by expanding the economy through greater educational opportunities, through land reform. You have to create opportunities for women, not restrict them. There are far too many black women who are told that the only effective method of contraception is sterilization. Some people are quite well meaning in this notion, but there is a racist ideology behind it."...

"I really see sterilization as an attempt to exterminate a problem, and that problem is poor people and in Brazil that means black people," [Catia Helena] Bispo said.

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