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'Forced' sterilisation of 'drug-addicted' Brazilian woman sparks uproar

Claims that a drug-addicted Brazilian woman was subjected to forced sterilisation are sparking accusations of a nightmarish "dystopia" in Brazil.

Thursday 14 June, 2018
Claims that a drug-addicted woman was subjected to forced sterilisation have sparked an uproar in Brazil.
Claims that a drug-addicted woman was subjected to forced sterilisation have sparked an uproar in Brazil. Foto:AFP-Nelson ALMEIDA

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Claims that a drug-addicted Brazilian woman was subjected to forced sterilisation are sparking accusations of a nightmarish "dystopia" in a country where a leading presidential candidate has stirred controversy with his own birth control proposals.

The facts of the case not under dispute are that Janaína Aparecida Quirino, an addict with numerous children, had her tubes tied after a ruling by a judge in Mococa, near São Paulo.

But according to a report in Folha de São Paulo newspaper, the woman was homeless and the procedure was performed without her consent.

By the time the judge's ruling came to appeal at a higher court, "the mutilation had already occurred," wrote the author of the report, the constitutional law professor Oscar Vilhena Vieira.

One advocacy group, the Institute of Penal Guarantees, said "Janaína K. woke under the custody of people she didn't know, named in a judicial case that she was not informed about."

"It evoked Kafka's The Trial," the institute said, referring to the hallucinatory novel about a man prosecuted without even being told what he is accused of having done.

The judge, Djalma Moreira Gomes, pushed back after Vieira's article came out last weekend, insisting that Quirino, who had seven children, with one more on the way, wanted to be sterilised.

"The family set-up was characterised by the parents' drug dependencies..., physical violence against the children by the current partner, and financial difficulties," the judge said in a statement, also denying that she was ever homeless.

According to Gomes, the woman "fully expressed consciousness and agreement with the sterilisation."

Details unclear

Crucial details of the case, even the dates, remain unclear. The judge's order was dated October 2017, but the sterilisation operation had to wait until the woman had given birth a last time.

Prosecutors say she did agree to the operation and some Brazilian media have published a redacted copy of what they say is a consent form signed back in 2015. 

However, officials said that a psychologist's report in which Quirino again gave the green light is under seal and cannot now be verified. In addition, the woman reportedly did not have a lawyer, which, if true, would raise doubts over the validity of anything she signed.

Whatever the truth, Quirino's story is stirring angry debate. 

The leftist news site revistaforum.com.br said the incident illustrates the "dystopia of life" in Brazil. The Institute of Penal Guarantees noted that "compulsory sterilisation is eugenics."

"She was treated as an object, a thing," another legal rights group, the Brazilian Association of Lawyers for Democracy, said.

But not everyone is complaining.

Janaína Paschoal, a prominent lawyer famous for her role in the 2016 impeachment case that brought down then president Dilma Rousseff, said sterilisation was Quirino's best hope.

"Acknowledging the difficulties around the topic, I declare my support" for the judge, she tweeted. "If I were the judge, I would have decided as he decided. Someone has to look out for the children!"

The debate is unlikely to go away given that a frontrunner in Brazil's October presidential election, hard-right former army officer Jair Bolsonaro, has previously called for limiting births among the poor.

"Only birth control can save us from chaos," the congressman said in 2008, according to Folha de São Paulo.

Bolsonaro has long campaigned in Congress to loosen laws around sterilisation, for example by removing the requirements for the person to be over 25 and to have consent of their spouse.

One of the candidate's sons, Rio de Janeiro city councilor Carlos Bolsonaro, made a video this week to defend his father against "ridiculous" media assertions that his promotion of sterilization targeted poor people specifically.

"Jair Bolsonaro has a bill to make it easier to get tubal ligation or a vasectomy, because there are numerous bureaucratic hurdles today," he said. The presidential hopeful "wants to give this opportunity so that people can have family planning."

by Sebastian Smith, AFP

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