Not too many years ago, 800,000 Rwandans perished when their country descended into a bloody civil war. Now their government, with the encouragement of groups funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, appears poised to launch a nationwide sterilization campaign that may have equally disastrous demographic consequences.
The plan calls for 700,000 men to be sterilized over the next three years. To put this number into perspective, bear in mind that, according to the latest UN Population Division estimates, the entire male population of Rwanda is only 5 million. Moreover, of this number roughly 70 percent are not candidates for vasectomies, since they are under the age of 20 or over the age of 50. This means that, of the 1.5 million men who are left, half are slated to be sterilized.
According to the BBC and Rwandan news outlets, the Rwandan government is introducing this campaign on the heels of a large-scale effort to circumcise men (a procedure which allegedly “protects against” HIV/AIDS infection). However, as the New Times reports, the real reason circumcision was included was simply because “it allows us get to the men’s reproductive system and in the process we advise them on condom use and vasectomy.”
Not only this, but back in 2008, health officials informed the BBC that these “circumcision campaigns” would be practiced first on “the newborn and young men in universities, the army and police.” It appears that the army and police will be first in line for vasectomies as well. While many Rwandans balk at the idea of being sterilized, “correspondents say many in the armed forces will regard it as an order” even though it will be “nominally voluntary.”
In this they are absolutely correct. I was an officer in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Understand that any time your superior officer asks you to do something, it is tantamount to an order, whether it is formally phrased that way or not. The men in the ranks will be circumcised and sterilized because they have been told to undergo these operations. They know that, if they fail to do so, their careers will be jeopardized.
The plan, nominally drawn up the Rwandan Ministry of Health, is being actively supported by at least two USAID-funded population control groups: Intrahealth and Family Health International.
Intrahealth proudly advertises that it is conducting surveys of men who have received vasectomies already, and will use “lessons learned to inform recommendations regarding the scale-up of vasectomy services in other districts as requested by the Maternal and Child Health Task Force of the Ministry of Health.”
Family Health International, for its part, is “supporting the Rwandan MOH to increase access to quality vasectomy services in Rwanda by training physicians across the country…”
The Rwandan government claims that it wants men to ‘go willingly’ for sterilization, but it also has a hard quota of 700,000 vasectomies which it wants to meet over the next three years. In PRI’s experience, every single time a sterilization campaign has had a target and a timetable, it inevitably involves coercion and other human rights abuses, just as surely as night follows day.
We ask the Rwandan government to end this campaign before it gets underway in earnest. The consequences of sterilizing half of all men of reproductive age will have a serious negative impact on the Rwandan family and economy, and cause additional human suffering among an already-traumatized population.
It may also reignite the Rwandan genocide, as the majority Hutus target the minority Tutsis for sterilization. We at PRI have documented many cases where U.S.-funded population control campaigns have been directed by an ethnic, racial, or religious majority at a despised minority.
We ask the U.S. Congress to investigate the groups collaborating with this campaign. It is a violation of U.S. law for U.S. funds to be used in conjunction with any program with involves targets or quotas, threats or intimidation, or other coercive measures. And it is a matter of fact that the groups involved with this campaign are funded by USAID using American tax dollars.
We will do everything in our power to expose any misuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars and halt this genocidal campaign against the Rwandan people.