Deaths of Over a Dozen Women at 'Sterilization Camp' in India Spark Protests

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Deaths of Over a Dozen Women at 'Sterilization Camp' in India Spark Protests

At least 12 women dead, scores remain hospitalized in Chhattisgarh state after operations that may have involved dirty instrutments

Women taking transportation in Chhattisgarh state.  (Photo:  PREM KUMAR MARNI/flickr/cc)

Protesters took to the streets in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Wednesday following the deaths of over a dozen women who took part in a government sterilization drive.

Eighty-three women had tubectomy operations on Saturday in what media reports describe as a sterilization camp in Bilaspur. The government paid each woman $23 to have the procedure. The surgeries were all performed by one doctor within a six-hour period, beyond the government limit of 30 operations in a day. His license to practice has been suspended pending an investigation.

Ramavtar Suryavanshi, whose 35-year-old wife was among those operated on, told Reuters, "The entire night she was in tremendous pain." He took her to a private hospital the following morning but she died shortly after being admitted to intensive care.

Scores of women feel ill after their surgeries, and others met the same fate Suryavanshi's wife; media reports indicate that at least 10 other women also died after the procedure at the same camp, and over 60 remain hospitalized, several of whom are in critical condition.

Another woman died after a tubectomy at a separate sterilization camp, also in Bilaspur, where a different doctor operated.

BBC News reports: "The victims' families, all from poor families, have each been promised a compensation of about $6,600."

A doctor at one of the hospitals where the injured were taken told the Associated Press their "condition is very serious. Blood pressure is low."

Though the cause of deaths won't be known until autopsies are done, state deputy health director Amar Singh said the apparent cause was blood poisoning or hemorrhagic shock, according to AP.

Chief Minister Raman Singh charged that the deaths were the result of doctors' negligence. Reuters adds:

The cause of the deaths was not clear, but officials said victims showed signs of toxic shock, possibly because of dirty equipment or contaminated medicines. A hospital official said that some of survivors may be suffering kidney problems.

"Preliminary reports show that the medicines administered were spurious and also the equipment used was rusted," senior local government official Siddharth Komal Singh Pardeshi told Reuters.

Questions are emerging around whether there are sterilization target numbers for the state, a practice that Human Rights Watch and reproductive rights groups have said is harmful to women.

Kerry McBroom, a New Delhi-based advocate with the Human Rights Law Network, told CNN: "The entire system is geared towards funding women towards sterilization."

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