Target: Health Ministry Director General Professor Ron Gamzu.
Goal: Condemn Israel for the practice of injecting Ethiopian women with contraceptives against their will and without their knowledge.
After years of denial, Israel finally acknowledged the practice of injecting Ethiopian women with long-acting contraceptives against their will and without their knowledge. Health Ministry Director General Professor Ron Gamzu has ordered health organizations to cease the practice immediately. The birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community has declined almost 50% in the past decade, and this damage cannot be undone. Moreover, the violation these women experienced cannot be erased.
The practice of injecting Ethiopian women with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera was first reported five years ago. Israel vehemently denied any knowledge or responsibility for the practice at the time. The report stated that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel in or around 2004 were forbidden entrance into Israel if they did not allow themselves to be injected with a purported vaccine. Some women were informed that the medication was a form of birth control, intended to lessen the suffering of women who gave birth frequently. Women were often threatened and intimidated into taking the injection while they resided in transit camps between Ethiopia and Israel. One woman stated, “We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”
The practice has apparently continued since then, and only ended in response to a letter from the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which demanded that the injections be stopped and an investigation launched into the practice. Health Ministry Director General Professor Ron Gamzu ordered four health maintenance organizations to stop the practice, instructing “all gynecologists in the HMOs 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.”
Although the actions of the Health Ministry Director General are commendable, they cannot erase the violation of women who were stripped of their rights to their bodies. They also cannot hide the racial implications of the practice. The focus of this heinous practice on Ethiopian women shows a deep prejudice, at the very least against peoples of Ethiopian descent. Sign the petition below to condemn Israel for this practice and to demand that the government apologize to the women in question.
Dear Mr. Gamzu,
After at least five years of denial, Israel has finally accepted responsibly for the terrible practice of forcibly injecting women of Ethiopian descent with a long-acting contraceptive known as Depo-Provera. Although I commend you for the steps you have taken to put an end to this practice and to have it investigated, such actions cannot erase the damage the practice has already done. Many women have been victimized by the Israeli government for no reason other than their racial heritage.
I am writing to condemn your government for this practice and to demand that the Health Ministry issue a public apology to the many women this practice has affected over the years. Simply ceasing the practice is not enough. Steps must be taken to rectify the damage that has been done to the women of the Israeli Ethiopian community.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Jewish Agency for Israel @ Flickr.