Earlier this week, several women from Malaysia’s native Orang Asli community went to Parliament to present a memorandum of understanding, claiming that they had been subjected to years of unsolicited family planning at the hands of government health authorities. Many of the complainants say they were injected with unknown compounds that resulted in both long-term, and short-term effects.
Women from the Temiar indigenous group, one of the largest of Malaysia’s native groups, residing in and around Gerik, in Hulu Perak, are claiming that the government knowingly injected them with birth control, without giving them full disclosure as to what they were being treated with.
“I told them I did not want it, because I heard from others who took it that it can cause you to lose sensation in your body, stomach aches, and others. But in the end, I had to take it,” said 20-something Lina Linda, from Kampung Ong Jelmol.
Another woman from the same village revealed that she too was given a similar injection five years ago, saying that she was “more or less forced to take the injection.” However, shortly after this incident, she became pregnant with her fourth child.
“When he was born, his right hand was not fully formed. I think it could be due to the medicine they made us take,” said Sanorah, who is in her 30s.
She reported that all women of child-bearing age in her village had been given the same injection, with many reporting that it made them feel dizzy and uncomfortable.
Colin Nicholas, a coordinator with the NGO Center of Orang Asli Concerns, was present with the women in Parliament.
“The women do not like it because they do not seem to have a choice, and some complain of the side effects from the medication,” he said.
“From my understanding, this has been going on for a long time, as far back as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first administration as prime minister when he aimed for Malaysia’s population to reach 70 million.”
While Malaysians, and Malays in particular, were given incentives to help grow Malaysia’s 20 million to 70 million in the name of self-sustainability, Nicholas is claiming that Orang Asli were having their numbers curbed via birth control, often without their knowledge.
Orang Asli rights have been in the headlines over the last month, after over a dozen members of the Bateq indigenous group were killed by what Health Ministry officials say is a measles epidemic.
Minister Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad has said that vaccination rates among the group is low, and has resulted in poor immunity. Many are asking why inoculation numbers among the tribe is so low.