Without child: Temporary sterilization of Ethiopian women in Israel may explain halving of birth rate
Ethiopian Jews in Israel protest against racism on January 18 in Tel Aviv.
With the election of the first female Ethiopian Israeli Jew, Pnina Tamano-Shata, to the Knesset in last week’s polls, the community of more than 150,000 finally had their champion in parliament.
It is something the minority had been hoping for, for decades, having suffered racist discrimination and abuse in the country they moved to. The racism hasn’t only affected the current generation of Ethiopian Israelis either, as one Israeli official admitted this week.
Speaking to Ha’aretz newspaper, the official spoke for the first time about the use of long-term contraception, given to Ethiopian women, often without their understanding or consent.
Prof. Ron Gamzu, Health Ministry Director General, said on Sunday that gynecologists had now been instructed not to administer the controversial Depo-Provera contraceptive drug to the women “if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.” The drug is usually considered a last resort and is usually given to women who are disabled or mentally ill.
An association of Ethiopian immigrants’ groups previously called for a full investigation into the practice of administering the drug without providing thorough information about its effects. Israeli journalist Gal Gabbay also revealed in a television investigation six weeks ago that women in transit camps on their way to Israel from Ethiopia were sometimes intimidated into taking the injections. Critics have called the practice “forced sterilization.” Gabbay’s investigation found that 40 percent of Ethiopian woman had been given the drug.