Health Ministry: Back Up Allegations of Forced Birth Control with Evidence

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Groups alleging that Health Ministry officials who visited Orang Asli villages and forced women to take birth control pills should provide evidence of this, says Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

The Health Minister said that such allegations must be backed with evidence before they could look into the claims.

“If there is proof, then we will look into it,” he told reporters at Parliament on Thursday (July 11).

Dr Dzulkefly said that as far as he was concerned, ministry staff had followed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) when treating patients.

“They are trained to do that – I find it odd there are claims that they (Orang Asli) were threatened,” he said.

When asked if patients could be forced to take any medication, Dr Dzulkefly said that officials cannot force anyone to do anything against their consent.

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On Tuesday, five representatives from Orang Asli villages submitted a memorandum to the government claiming that, among others, Orang Asli women had been given birth control pills without proper information.

They demanded that the government stop this practice.

A group of Orang Asli alleged that government health officers forced the mothers and women in their community to take injections and birth control medication.

The group’s spokesperson, Anjang Aluej, said the Orang Asli women did not know the nature of the medication, its uses and effects.

Malaysiakini had quoted an Orang Asli activist, Nora Kantin, as claiming that health ministry personnel threatened to confiscate the women’s medical cards if they refused to take the medication.

She said that newlyweds among the community were especially targeted and forced to take the injections after having just one child, and the injections harmed their health.

Nora was reported as saying that women became bloated, going from skinny to overweight quickly after the injections.

Dzulkefly clarified that birth control medication given to Orang Asli women is meant to reduce pregnancy complications linked to anaemia.

He said it is part of an intervention programme as it is important for women with anaemia to avoid pregnancy.

“It was done out of a sense of responsibility to save women so they don’t suffer complications (during pregnancy).

“They were suffering from anaemia,” he said.

Anaemia is a condition in which a person does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. Having anaemia may make an individual feel tired and weak.

Dzulkefly said the intervention was not permanent.

“After two years, they would no longer be given the medication. It was not done out of mala fide; this is important to save Orang Asli women,” he said.