By Ila Ananya
On Monday, 6th February, almost 600 women started an indefinite protest outside the Kalaburagi Deputy Commissioner’s office, Karnataka, demanding that criminal action be taken against doctors who had performed unnecessary hysterectomies on women. The women, mostly Lambani and Dalit women were victims of the hysterectomies — when they’d gone to their doctors with abdominal pain, they had been told they needed to get their uterus removed, because they were at risk of cancer.
The protest on Monday had groups like the Alternative Law Forum and Vimochana taking part as well. The same scam had first come to light in August 2015. Volunteers of the Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali (KJC) had heard from people in the villages that women were having their uterus removed because they were getting cancer.
After they submitted a fact-finding report, the health department had enquired into the issue and submitted a report in October 2015, cancelling the licenses of the four hospitals involved — but more than a year and a half later, there hasn’t been any FIR against the doctors involved, or compensation for the victims. The doctors and each of the hospitals continued to practice, benefitting from controlling women’s bodies, until two women who’d undergone such hysterectomies approached the Kalaburagi bench of the Karnataka High Court. On January 5th 2017, the bench issued a notice to the Health Department.
The report in October 2015 had found that on examination of around 66 women who had undergone the procedure, 44 had been unnecessary. Reports of the other 22 women had been left incomplete. The study also looked at the number of hysterectomies conducted in 25 hospitals in the district, only to find that the number was seven times higher in private hospitals than in government hospitals. Times of India reports that Noola Surgical and Maternity Hospital (one of the four hospitals involved in the racket) had conducted 900 operations from 30 months before August 2015.
At the end of the protest on Monday, two of the four demands of protesting women were accepted—the women were told that the administration would immediately take steps to book cases against doctors who performed the hysterectomies, and there it would be ensured that these hospitals were shut down. The demand for compensation was left open — women were assured that a committee would be formed with officials to take care of this.