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Disability act draft backs right to retain fertility
Chennai: The final draft of the new Disability Act, 2011, includes a first-of-its-kind proposal that upholds the right of the disabled to retain their fertility. Forced sterilization of disabled people, both physical and mental, will be a punishable offence with imprisonment up to 10 years and fine. The proposal, however, evoked mixed reactions. While state officials expressed their unease about the law and how to implement it, activists and NGOs welcomed it.
Forced sterilization is traditionally practised on mentally-challenged women susceptible to sexual abuse. To prevent unwanted pregnancy and the hassles of a regular menstrual cycle, mentally-challenged women are sterilized without their consent. In some cases, physically-disabled women are also sterilized as they are perceived to be incapable of taking care of children. By banning sterilization without the consent of the disabled person, the new law proposes to recognize the legal capacity of disabled people.
State officials are uncertain about its implementation. “How does one take the consent of a mentallychallenged person who does not understand the concept of fertility?” asked an official. “Also, how does one monitor such a rule? Sterilization still cannot prevent sexual abuse,” said another official.