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Disabled girls sterilized 'illegally' circa Nov 97

The Victorian Health Minister, Rob Knowles, has asked for a departmental report on the illegal sterilization of intellecually disabled teenage girls. He said a report that doctors across Australia were conducting hundreds of such operations was a great concern.

SYDNEY - A report released yesterday claims more than 1000 illegal sterilisations have been performed on intellectually disabled women and girls in Australia. The report, The Sterilisation of Girls and Young Women In Australia, said the High Court ruled in 1992 that only a court or tribunal could authorise sterilisation operations on minors that were other than for other than therapeutic purposes. It said courts since 1992 authorised only 17 sterilisationsl, despite figures showing 1045 girls had been sterilised during this period. "The law has failed to protect significant numbers of children from significant abuse of their fuddamental human right to bodily integrity," the report said. Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Hastings, who released the report, said: "It seems clear that the practice of sterilisation is being undor taken without effective accountability and is happening unlawfully." Australian Health Minister Michael Wooldridge described the report as "extraordinary," and, a spokesman said the federal he department's view was that "data had been misconstrued." "Our department is strongly'of the view that it inflates the number of steiilisations by about four to five times," said the spokesman who said neither he nor Wooldridge had seen the report.'

Playing God with people's lives. Emily Buchanan Guardian Weekly March 23 1997

Leilani Muir was just 11 years old when she was told to have her appendix out. What she wasn't told was that she would be sterilized as well.


Look back in Anger - Leilani outside Red Deer

"HOW COULD a mother hate her daughter so much to have left me here?" The tears rolled down her face as the memories flooded back. Leilani Muir, a bright and articulate 52-year-old, was revisiting the insti- tution that labelled her, at the age of 11, "a mentally defective moron". She was left at the bottom of the steps leading to the entrance by her mother, an alcoholic who never wanted a daughter and had taken out her anger on the little girl with regular beatings. That day in July 1955, her mother drove off without even saying goodbye. But like hun- dreds of other abused and neglected children, Muir had escaped one nightmare only to enter another. She thought she was being sent to an orphanage. Instead, she had been left in the Provincial Training School for the mentally deficient in Red Deer in the heart of Canada's farm belt. She had no idea that it was the main centre for a government policy of social cleansing. Virtually everyone who entered it was deemed to have inferior genes and was forcibly sterilised. 'The Red Deer School was implementing a law that had been on the statute books in Alberta since 1928, the Sexual Sterilisation Act. 'The law was not repealed until 1972, too late to save nearly 3,000 young people from being mutilated. One of the most chilling aspects of Alberta's sterilsation policy was the way in which it was cloaked in scientific respectability through the setting up of the Eugenics Board: four adults, two of them doctors, who interrogated the children when they reached puberty. It didn't matter what the terrified child said, the verdict was nearly-always; the same: sterilisation. Some victims remember being asked who the premier of Alberta was, or at what age a baby walks, apparently to assess whether they were capable of 'intelligent parenthood'.

Muir barely contains her anger at the memory of her session board. They were playing God with people's fives. Five minutes of our lives, that's all it took. It was a rubber stamp, cows on a conveyor belt that's what it was. If we were morons, what were they?" Days after appearing in front of the board, Muir was told she was to have her appendix out. 'They did take her appendix out; what they didn't tell her was that they removed her fallopian tubes as well. A decade later, after she was married, Muir visited a doctor to find out why she wasn't getting pregnant. It was only then that she discovered the truth. The doctor described her insides as "being as if she'd been through a slaughterhouse". But it is not only the physical scars that have haunted her: When she tried to adopt, she was refused because of the stigma of being an ex-inmate of Red Deer. Muir spent six years suing the provincial government of Alberta. Last year she won her case and was awarded $750,000 in compensation; 700 other victims are now suing the state. Each has a horror story, but they have stayed silent for years, terrified that if they complained, they might be sent back. The case of Matilda Kesling illustrates how perverse the system was. Now 57and a nurse, she lives with ber husband in a neat flat in Edmonton. When Matilda was 13, she was raped five times by local boys. When the social worker came, Matilda was charged with "sexual immorality" and put under the jurisdiction of the juvenile offenders court. In March 1955, she was placed in Red Deer, with the agreement of her father, and classed as a mentally defective moron'. On her arrival, other inmates told her that she, like them, would be sterilised. Matilda wrote frantically to her relatives, but all her letters were intercepted. She remembers crying and pleading with the doctors not to have the operation. But only a month after she was admitted, they removed her appendix and severed her fallopian tubes.

Hundreds of men were sterilized too. One, was Wayne Rustin who went to stay with his father, but was admitted to Red Deer because his father, couldn't cope with him. After he was sterilised, his father committed suicide when he realised what he had done to his son. Alberta's policy of sexual sterilisation was a byproduct of the new theories on heredity emerging in the 1920s, coupled with the deep insecurities of a young frontier community. Selective breeding of livestock was seen to help the farms. It was only a small mental step to see it could be used to improve the human stock too. Building their new Jerusalem, Albertans felt threatened by growing immigration from eastern and southern Europe in crime, prostitution, venereal disease and alcohofism. Mental and moral deficiency was thought to be transrnifted from one generation to the next through genes. The Sexual Sterifisation Act offered reassurance to the middle classes that social harmony could be restored by stopping undesirables from breeding. Thirty US states also conducted forced sterifisations in the twenties and thirties, but these petered out after the second world war. Professor Douglas Wahlsten, a leading psychologist at the University of Alberta, described the government of Alberta as "the only jurisdiction in the British Empire where eugenic sterifisation was vigorously implemented". After the war, while Nazis were being hanged in war crimes trials for their eugenics programmes, "lessons from this dark period of human history appeared to have little or no impact on the operation of the Alberta Eugenics Board". During the fifties and sixties, the board adopted procedures that were beyond public scrutiny and even outside the law - with the tacit support of Alberta's rightwing Social Credit government. The documents in Leilani Muir's case prove how science and psychology were hijacked to justify an elitist and racist political agenda. On the physician's certificate entering her into Red Deer, under facts indicating mental deficiency, the observation was made that she was a "pleasant-looking child who talks easily". When she was presented to the Eugenics Board, she was classed as a "mentally defective moron", despite her school report that she was good at spelling and arithmetic.

Muir came from a poor family who moved frequently and the identity of her father was uncertain; she was also accused of showing 'a definite interest in the opposite sex'. 'The verdict of the board: -Mere was a danger of the transmission to the progeny of a mental deficiency or disability, also incapable of intelligent parenthood.' 'The provincial government of Alberta is still refusing to compensate the 700 other sterilization victims, even though there is a budget surplus of $2.2 million. 'The government argues it is not the taxpayers of today who shouold pay for the faults of yesterday. But Muir insists it is still the government's role to compensate for the damage - even though no amount of money can make up for the loss. As she plays in the snow with her great-niece and nephew, she is reminded of how much she had wanted children. 'You can't put a pace on a child's life, you can't put a price on what they took away from me as a woman. My heart is breaking and it will until the day I die.'

26th August 1997 STOCKHOLM - NZ Herald

The Swedish government could face thousands of claims for compensation because of a campaign of forced sterilisation of women that historians say has been hushed up for years. Shocked Swedes have learned that more than 60,000 women were sterilized to rid society of 'inferior' racial types and to encourage Aryan features. Sweden, which has long basked in its image as a champion of human rights, is reeling from the revelations this week that along with Norway and Denmark it pioneered racial, cleansing "sciences." What happened was nothing but barbaric, its Social Affairs Minister, Margot Wallstrom, admitted, adding that she was prepared to review laws that said the steriliztions were written into law and that damages could not be paid. . Journalist Maciej Zaremba's revelations, published in the liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter detail decades of govemmental population control. The sterilisations began in 1935, peaked in 1946 and were not stopped until 1976. Most victims were "inferior" or of "poor or mixed racial quality,' meaning people with learning difficulties, poor or not of the common Nordic blood stock. One victim, 72-year-old Maria Nordin, said she was viewed as educationally "inferior" because she had no glasses as a child and could not see the school black-board. Miss Nordin was sent to a school for the mentally subnormal and made to sign forms when she was aged 17. "I signed because I knew I had to get out ... I was sent to Bolinas hospital where they took everything out. A Dr Ingvarsson said to me, 'you're not very bright, you can't have children',' she said.

Mrs Wallstrorn, who confessed to feeling ashamed that she rejected Miss Nordin's application for damages in 1996, said she would raise the subject in cabinet. 'It's the least I can do." Drawing comparisons between Sweden and Nazi Germany is like rubbing salt in a wound for many Swedes, who already feel thame about Sweden's neutrality during the Second World War and help offered by governments for the German war effort. The issue is also painful in a country which prides itself on a tradition of a welfare state targeted at helping the needy. "The most astonishing thing is the ideological difference. In Germany it was the Nazis and in Scandinavia it was the welfare states that showed the most willingness to cleanse themselves of 'racial or socially inferior' types, Maciej Zaremba wrote. - REUTERS


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