Compulsory Coercive Sterilizations and Women's Health: A Judicial Perspective

10 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2017

Date Written: March 21, 2017


“Reproductive freedom is critical to a whole range of issues. If we can’t take charge of this most personal aspect of our lives, we can’t take care of anything. It should not be seen as a privilege or as a benefit, but a fundamental human right.” – Faye Wattleton

The Constitution of India promises the right to equality, the right to dignity and the right to life to all citizens irrespective of their background, gender, religion, caste or class. Yet, the state has refused to recognize the rights of poor and marginalized women and treat them like cattle by forcefully sterilizing them without their consent or by using tactics to exploit these women of their reproductive and health rights. Are these women entitled to claim their right to dignity under the provisions of the law against the state? Can a woman assert her right to reproductive health and choices in a patriarchal yet democratic context in an Indian society? Can the state coerce and intimidate poor and marginalized women to undergo forceful coercive abortions under the guise of protecting maternal health or controlling population? What is the judicial perspective on this issue of coercion by the state and health rights of women in India? This article attempts to examine these questions pertaining to the rights and dignity of women in the Indian context in relation to compulsory sterilization with the judicial lens. More specifically, this articles looks at the recent judgments pronounced by the courts in such cases and attempts to analyse the women’s right to reproductive justice from the judicial perspective.

Keywords: sterilization, women, health, India, reproductive justice, poor, marginalized women, law, judiciary

Suggested Citation

Nigam, Shalu, Compulsory Coercive Sterilizations and Women's Health: A Judicial Perspective (March 21, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Shalu Nigam (Contact Author)

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