The 137 women who were herded into derelict healthcare facilities were given a choice: more babies or sterilization. It was really no choice, but, as always, they took what they could get.
If you are a woman in a remote village in Bilaspur, in the largely rural state of Chhattisgarh, chances are you are far removed from a world full of modern options in contraception that allow you to space out babies. You are also taught early in life not to say no and to accept the decisions taken on your behalf — even if they are about your own health.
So, when the women registered their consent to be sterilized, they didn’t know, and were too fearful to ask, what they were getting into. What they hoped for was freedom from a life of unwanted pregnancies. In fact, they were being robbed of their autonomy by getting them to put their thumb impressions on consent forms they couldn’t read.
But with their ‘consent’ taken, the women were rushed through surgeries performed at high speed. A single surgeon did as many as 84 sterilizations, each in a minute and a half, as though out to set a record.