Most people would probably assume that forced sterilization policies were largely erased from the law books of Western nations after World War Two, due to their association with the eugenics movement. However, they might be surprised to find that there are some countries that still allow this practice, and Australia is among them.
Currently, Australia doesn’t have any laws that explicitly prohibit the forced sterilization of mentally disabled adults or children, and they don’t maintain a record of how many of these sterilizations take place. Normally these procedures are prompted by the parents of the disabled, who first have to ask the government for permission. After a family court determines that the procedure is in the best interest of the child, they grant the parents and their doctor permission to sterilize the child.
In most countries, there is a blanket ban on forced sterilization, though exceptions are sometimes made for life-threatening conditions. The UN considers forced sterilization to be a violation of human rights, and in some cases a form of torture.
On Monday, Australia’s practice of allowing forced sterilization of the disabled was noted at the United Nations Human Rights Council, which plans on releasing a human rights review for Australia on Thursday. In last year’s report, the UN urged the government to “take immediate steps to prohibit involuntary sterilization and provide assistance enabling people with disabilities to make decisions about their own lives.”