Filmmaker speaks out on ICE allegations

"America must reckon with its eugenic history," says Erika Cohn

by Jennie Kermode

Belly Of The Beast
Belly Of The Beast

Erika Cohn, director of upcoming documentary Belly Of The Beast, last night released a statement condemning the alleged coerced sterilisation of migrant women held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre in Georgia, US.

"I have spent the past decade examining the human rights abuses, including forced sterilisation, in California’s women’s prisons as both a volunteer legal advocate and as a filmmaker," Cohn said. "Because of the levels of secrecy and privacy institutions hide behind, it’s incredibly difficult to uncover abuses of power and state sponsored violence. We demand immediate accountability for these eugenic practices, justice for the survivors and safeguards to prevent future abuses."

The sterilisations reportedly took place at the privately run Irwin County Detention Centre, located near the small town of Ocilla. A formal complaint was filed yesterday by Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network after reports that several women had been given hysterectomies without being told why, with no clear medical reason; and that, in another case, a patient with a cyst on one of her ovaries had the wrong ovary removed.

The US has a long history of sterilising minority women, including African American women, Native women and disabled women, often through programmes posing as providers of medical help or pregnancy care. In 2015 North Carolina paid compensation to victims of such procedures, and other states have come under pressure to do likewise.

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