Nasbandi: Conversations About Female Sterilization in Rural India


CW: Female sterilisation, violence against women

Thursday the 11th June saw the feminist collective HYSTERIA and the LSE Feminist Society present a short documentary on female sterilisation in North India, titled Nasbandi: Conversations About Female Sterilization in Rural India.

The film has been stirring up discussion left, right and centre but especially amongst women of all ages.

For the Indian government, sterilisation has always been the most effective means of decreasing population. Debates surrounding sterilisation come back to questioning human rights – is promoting sterilisation a moral practice? Why aren’t alternative methods used to decrease population? Should sterilisation be something done by choice rather than force? And yet, little attention has been given to the voices of those actually affected by the government’s policy – the women themselves.

Directed by American filmmaker Zoe Hamilton, Nasbandi tells the stories of four women as they reflect on their decision to get or refuse sterilisation. Through the narratives of Sarita, Pushpa, Sundara Devi, and Roopa, the film filters into issues surrounding feminism, sexism, gender equality and gender politics, and questions whether or not the practise of sterilisation is the right choice for India’s future.

Over one third of India’s population of women are sterilised, which begs the question of why so many women have chosen, been forced into or refused the Government’s regime of sterilisation and whether or not these ‘choices’ were in their best interest.  In the documentary, one of the women interviewed said, “If the women have more kids, they find it hard to bring them up. There is much unemployment, and the fields do not yield enough crops to bring them any profit. That’s why they prefer to be sterilised.”

Of course, for a woman to be forced into having child upon child because her partner feels she should is unfair and degrading, not only on the woman but also the children, as they have to be brought up in a household which can’t cater for their needs or their future. You can see why some make the choice to be sterilised. For others, however, it’s no ‘choice’ at all.

The film really drove home the reality that I, unlike many women around the world, have the freedom and choice to do as I wish, as well as to choose what’s right for my body and reproductive system without the woes of society forced upon me.  I found tears running down my cheeks at what I witnessed. In all its truth, it hurt me. It hurt me to know these people are treated in such an unjust manner and that they have little to no power against the Government’s regime of sterilisation.

I can only hope this documentary will leave those who watch it with a better understanding of why the women of India choose and are forced into sterilisation, and that showing the film worldwide will force India to consider alternative methods of population control. When the Indian Government censored India’s Daughters, Leslee Udwin’s documentary on the 2012 gang rape, they tried to sweep the widespread issue of sexual violence under the rug. Hopefully with Nasbandi, they are unable to continue doing so with their programme of sterilisation.

– Reannon Licorish is a 20 year old Journalism student and amateur photographer. She writes for Conversations About Her and 55Factory. Follow her on Twitter at @re_latoya.