Ethiopian Women Allegedly Coerced to Take Oral Contraception

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—Ethiopian women who have immigrated to Israel are allegedly being subjected to coerced long-term birth control. The contraceptive, Depo Provera, is given by injection and must be given every three months. Many doctors consider this method to be a last resort since the drug is known to have many uncomfortable side effects including severe headaches and abdominal pains.

Ethiopian women arrive in Israel along with their children. (Photo Courtesy of The Times of Israel)

These women, known as Falash Mura, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia just eight years ago told an Israeli Educational Television reporter that they were forced to receive these injections as a condition to allowing their immigration. The women also claimed that representatives from the Israeli Joint Distribution Committee as well as the Health Ministry coerced them by telling that raising large families in Israel is quite difficult. They also, allegedly said that if these women have too many children, it would be hard for them (the women) to find work to support them and that many landlords would refuse to rent apartments or homes to such large families.

The Falash Mura women further claimed that they were told that they must take certain vaccinations if they desired to continue to receive medical care from the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and continue with their plans to immigrate. One of these women told the television show Vacuum that she had been receiving the injections for over four years without being warned by doctors that the medicine may be dangerous for those taking it.

In the past ten years 50,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel. In this time frame, the birthrate of this group has dropped by 50 percent.

In investigating these claims, a hidden camera was installed in an Israeli health clinic. The video revealed an Ethiopian woman being advised by a nurse that the injection is given only to Ethiopian women. The nurse was recorded saying, “It’s given primarily to Ethiopian women, because they forget, they don’t understand, and it’s hard to explain to them so it’s best that they receive a shot once every three months…basically they don’t understand anything.”

The government and Israeli authorities denied all of these allegations. David Yaso, the director of the Immigration Ministry’s Ethiopian Department noted that no women were ever told that they were forbidden to have large families in Israel. He also said that none of them were coerced into taking contraceptive shots against their will.

Professor Daniel Seidman, the chairman of the Israel Society for Contraception and Sexual Health, offered two explanations for the drop in the Ethiopian birth rate. He said that either the women are not better educated and are looking to have careers and not quite as many children, or they now recognize that with limited finances, they cannot afford to have very large families.

A member of the ADC also noted that “the medical team does not intervene directly or indirectly with economic aid and the Joint is not involved” in these types of procedures.


For further information, please see: – Forced Sterilizations? Ethiopian Women Claim the JDC and the Israel Health Ministry Forced Them to Take Sterilization Shots – 9 December 2012

Haaretz – Why is the Birth Rate in Israel’s Ethiopian Community Declining? – 9 December 2012

The Times of Israel – Ethiopian Women Claim Israel Forced Them to Use Birth Control Before Letting Them Immigrate – 9 December 2012 – Israel Subjecting Ethiopian Women to Long Term Birth Control – 7 January 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive

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