By NICK CHILES
It’s stunning to look around the globe—and in the U.S.—and see the things that governments and individuals are still getting away with in the treatment of women. We were shocked to see that the Israeli government is now acknowledging a government practice of injecting Ethiopian women immigrating to Israel with a long-acting contraceptive and telling them they couldn’t come into the country if they didn’t take the shot. But it appears that in most cases, the government didn’t tell the women what the shot was, so many of them thought they were being vaccinated.
No, you don’t need to check your calendar—we’re in the year 2013, folks.
This abhorrent policy was tacitly acknowledged by the Israeli government this week when Israel’s Health Ministry Director General Ron Gamzu banned Israel’s health maintenance organizations from injecting Ethiopian women with the contraceptive Depo-Provera.
Gamzu sent out a letter to HMOs telling them “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment,” the news site Haaretz reported Sunday.
Over the past decade, there has been a 50 percent drop in the birth rate in Israel’s Ethiopian community.
The plight of Ethiopian Jews has been fairly horrendous since they started emigrating to Israel 30 years ago to escape persecution in Ethiopia. But they have faced bitter discrimination in Israel, having difficulty getting jobs and being treated as members of Israeli society.
And now we get word that Israel was doing some horrendously racist social engineering on these poor souls, who number about 120,000 now in Israel—with a third of them born in Israel.
In recent years as the number of non-whites in Israel has increased, there has been significant concern in the country about how to retain the society’s homogeneity. In other words, its whiteness. Apparently in the case of the Ethiopians, the government figured out an answer.
Haaretz reports that a documentary detailing the experiences of 35 Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel eight years ago shows that they were told they would not be allowed to move to Israel unless they agreed to the Depo-Provera shots.
“We said we won’t have the shot,” recounted one of the women, according to Haaretz. “They told us, if you don’t you won’t go to Israel. And also you won’t be allowed into (an assistance program), you won’t get aid or medical care. We were afraid … We didn’t have a choice. Without them and their aid we couldn’t leave (Ethiopia). So we accepted the injection. It was only with their permission that we were allowed to leave.”
And last month there was a report by a local investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, that revealed how women in a transit camp in Ethiopia awaiting emigration to Israel were told they would have to get the shots in order to be allowed entry.
And worse, according to the Los Angeles Times, the possible side effects of the drug include a decrease in bone density that puts women at increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture. In addition, returning to fertility can be a lengthy process and withdrawal symptoms can be acute.
The Times of Israel details the case of a nurse — captured by a hidden camera in a health clinic — telling an Ethiopian woman that the shot is given to Ethiopian immigrants because “they forget, they don’t understand, and it’s hard to explain to them, so it’s best that they receive a shot once every three months … basically they don’t understand anything.”
This all sounds like something out of another era. But it shows how much work still needs to be done around the globe to protect and advocate for women, particularly in societies where they are treated as second-class citizens—or in the case of Israel, as social pariahs when they happen to have dark skin.
It’s absolutely disgusting.
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