Spain debates bill to scrap forced sterilisation of disabled people

Date: 
January, 2020
Country: 
Spain

Cristina Paredero was 18 when she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism.

The diagnosis came as a relief to the young woman, who had been struggling for years to pinpoint the causes of her difficulties. But it was a shock to her parents, who misunderstood its meaning.

From then on, they stopped trusting their daughter's ability to fend for herself and decided it was best she underwent a sterilisation process.

Under the current Spanish penal code, people declared "disabled" by a doctor can be sterilised against their will.

In Cristina's case, she authorised the process but felt the pressure exerted by her family.

Cristina's voice, cheerful and carefree, contrasts with the burden she has been bearing for many years.

Cristina, who is now 26, studies journalism and has taken a few minutes to tell her story to Euronews.

“My parents always saw my Asperger as a disease and not as a different capacity,” she said.

“They kept telling me that it would be irresponsible to have sex because I could get pregnant; that I was not going to be able to take on the responsibility of being a mother; that, as I was Asperger, my children would also be born Asperger; and this insistence fixed in my mind the idea that I was not capable of having children.”

Cristina, therefore, decided to undergo tubal ligation.

The doctors told her everything would go smoothly.

"This is not going to hurt," she recalls hearing. She says that was practically the only thing the practitioners explained about the procedure.

The doctors themselves encouraged the young woman to move forward with the decision, she told Euronews.

It wasn't until years later, after speaking to psychologists and organisations that defend the rights of disabled people, that she realised she was perfectly capable of being a mother.

“As I grew up, I discovered the professionals I spoke with had a completely different opinion and I realised that I had been manipulated for my parents' own benefit and peace of mind, without taking my own interest into account.”

Critics say the article conflicts with the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Spain ratified in 2008.

“In its article 23, the treaty (...) says that there should be no discrimination to start a family, get married, or the possibility of choosing freely if they want to have children. And that they shall be provided, through family planning, with the necessary means to be able to exercise these rights, ”said Giménez.

“Rather than sterilisation, what people need is that we work to empower them, make them understand what it means to be a mother or father and give them tools to perform the task,” the legal expert of Plena Inclusión told Euronews.

Several human rights groups have criticised Spain for not following European and international standards.

Source: EN