The BBC does some investigating in Uzbekistan. It finds a nasty habit of sterilizing women without their knowledge or consent.
Sterilisation is not, officially, the law in Uzbekistan.
But evidence gathered by the BBC suggests that the Uzbek authorities have run a programme over the last two years to sterilise women across the country, often without their knowledge.
Foreign journalists are not welcome in Uzbekistan, and in late February of this year the authorities deported me from the country. I met Adolat and many other Uzbek women in the relative safety of neighbouring Kazakhstan. I also gathered testimony by telephone and email, and in recordings brought out of the country by courier.
None of the women wanted to give their real names but they come from different parts of Uzbekistan and their stories are consistent with those of doctors and medical professionals inside the country.
“Every year we are presented with a plan. Every doctor is told how many women we are expected to give contraception to; how many women are to be sterilised,” says a gynaecologist from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
One suggested reason is flabbergasting – it’s a way to improve the maternal/infant mortality stats.
Several doctors and medical professionals said forced sterilisation is not only a means of population control but also a bizarre short-cut to lowering maternal and infant mortality rates.
“It’s a simple formula – less women give birth, less of them die,” said one surgeon.
The result is that this helps the country to improve its ranking in international league tables for maternal and infant mortality.
“Uzbekistan seems to be obsessed with numbers and international rankings,” says Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“I think it’s typical of dictatorships that need to construct a narrative built on something other than the truth.”
And, of course, it’s only women, so…