Since 1999, Uzbekistan’s ongoing, systematic forced sterilization program has affected tens of thousands of women. All women of reproductive age who have delivered two or more children are potential targets, but women with lower socio-economic status and representatives of ethnic minorities are more likely to be sterilized. Medical professionals throughout the country have come under pressure to perform sterilizations, and local health administrators attempt to outperform one another in order to please the central authorities.
Since 1989, the Uzbek government has forced farmers to grow and citizens to pick cotton to fill central government coffers, in violation of national law and international labor standards. Each autumn, the Uzbek government forces children, teenagers, university students, public-sector workers—including teachers, doctors and nurses—and private-sector employees to pick cotton under appalling conditions. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits, or worse.
In this discussion, BBC journalist Natalia Antelava speaks about her recent paper “Forced Sterilization in Uzbekistan,” and Matthew Fischer-Daly addresses global efforts to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan.