According to a recent report, Israel has been administering Depo-Provera to Ethiopian women without any informed consent. At present, it’s estimated that thousands of Ethiopian women are receiving regular shots. The women never consented to receiving this highly controversial treatment. Many were never told that the shots are contraceptive, and questionable contraceptives at that.
The Ethiopian women started receiving `the treatment’ in the so-called transit camps in Ethiopia. Exactly who originated the program and who runs it now, from the camps in Ethiopia to the clinics in Israel, is under investigation.
Some women say they were told, in the camps, “No shot, no Israel.” Others say they were told it’s a flu shot.
At one level, this news is not new. In 2008, a day care center director noticed a sharp decline in the numbers of Ethiopian children. She went to the nearby clinic and was informed the clinic had been “had been instructed to administer Depo Provera injections to the women of child-bearing age.” They were merely following instructions.
In 2010, the Women and Medical Technologies Project of Isha L’Isha, or Woman to Woman, released a study, “Depo Provera: A contraceptive method given via injection: A report on its prescription policy among women of the Ethiopian community in Israel.” They noted that while Ethiopian women made up 2% of the female population in Israel, of “the mentioned 4833 cases, 2759 (57%) were women of Ethiopian origin.”
The most recent `discovery’ occurred in December of last year, thanks to a documentary made by Sava Reuben, a woman of Ethiopian origin. Reuben has been in Israel since 1984. The `nation’ was shocked. Outcry ensued.
How is one to read this tale of racial, xenophobic, sexist violence against women … all under the sheltering sky of State health policy? In Namibia, South Africa and elsewhere, women have been forcibly sterilized because they were HIV-positive. In Namibia, the women took the State to court … and won: “Non negotiable: my body, my womb, my rights”. In India, Indira Gandhi’s government, in the mid-1970’s, launched a campaign of forced sterilization. It was `the Emergency.’
It’s always `the Emergency.’ From Namibia and South Africa to India to Israel and beyond, it’s always `the Emergency’ and women always pay. Emergency is the state of the modern State. This too is not new. In 1940, Walter Benjamin wrote: “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight.” Almost sixty years later, Giorgio Agamben commented on Benjamin’s insight: “Walter Benjamin’s diagnosis … has lost none of its relevance. And that is so not really or not only because power no longer has today any form of legitimization other than emergency, and because power everywhere and continuously refers and appeals to emergency as well as laboring secretly to produce it. (How could we not think that a system that can no longer function at all except on the basis of emergency would not also be interested in preserving such an emergency at any price?)”
None of this is new.
What is the price of a permanent State of emergency? Ask the Ethiopian women in Israel. They’ll tell you.
Dan Moshenberg email@example.com