On September 2020, Project South and Government Accountability made public a complaint on behalf of a former nurse Dawn Wooten. It details how personnel at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, USA subjected detained immigrant women to non-consensual hysterectomies and unnecessary gynecological procedures, and failed to take adequate precautions to protect detained immigrants’ health in the midst of the uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint and further media reports provide multiple accounts of the profoundly personal harm with life-lasting consequences that the gynecological interventions had on women.
FAR has expressed its solidarity with the affected women and joined the multiple voices raised by migrants organizations, lawyers associations, board-certified OB-GYNs and progressive US Congress women that have demanded thorough and immediate investigation of the facts and accountability of the medical personnel who engaged in the non-consensual and/or unnecessary gynecological procedures, as well as all those who failed in their oversight duties to ensure proper medical care for those held under their authority and jurisdiction.
FAR calls for the protection of the victims and the adoption of transformative reparations to ensure these violations will not occur again. The United States must ensure that women victims are adequately consulted and their rights and needs are placed at the center of any solution using a gender sensitive approach.
Which human rights are at stake?
Non-consensual hysterectomies and unnecessary gynecological procedures constitute clear violations of obligations of the United States under international human rights law. These practices violate migrant women’s right to live a life with dignity and safety; the right to substantial equality and non-discrimination; the right to the highest attainable standard of health, in particular, their reproductive health and bodily autonomy; and their right to privacy and security. Migrant women have the right not be subjected to any form of violence, including gender-based violence, neither to acts that may constitute torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
The lack of adequate precautions to protect detained immigrants’ health in the midst of the uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic infringes the right to substantial equality and non-discrimination and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
How is FAR supporting this issue? Our engagement with UN Special Procedures.
FAR collaborated with Project South, the Transnational Legal Clinic (TLC), the Center for Reproductive Rights and Continental Network of Indigenous Women, and other migrants organizations, to ensure human rights mechanisms were informed about the violations reported at ICDC, in particular those affecting women. On November 2020 we submitted the letter available here.
Our joint letter effectively informed the communication that several UN Special Procedures issued in March 2021. Regarding the specific situation affecting migrant women at ICDC, the Special Procedures requested the U.S. government information on actions taken to ensure effective access to justice for migrant women, in relation to the allegations of non-consensual gynecological procedures at ICDC; and to provide the details, of any investigation, medical examinations, and judicial or other inquiries that may have been carried out, as well as any steps taken to sanction those responsible and to ensure victims’ effective access to justice, remedy and reparation for the harm suffered. The communication also requested the government to provide detailed information on the steps that has been undertaken to provide effective access to justice for migrant women and girls who may become victims of any form of violence or abuse, including gender-based violence and sexual abuse, without fear of being reported to the immigration authorities.
Join Project South’s demands to close ICDC!
Project South, along Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Georgia Detention Watch, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network and Detention Watch Network, are demanding that Irwin County officials, US Marshals Service, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately terminate their intergovernmental agreement and contract with LaSalle Corrections, the private company that operates ICDC. The petition calls the government to abstain from entering into any new agreements and to shut down ICDC immediately. We invite you to read and sign this petition here. You can also share it on social media using the hashtags: #ShutDownIrwin and #AbolishICE.
If you want to help us raise awareness on this issue on social media, please share and retweet our posts using the hashtag #ShutDownIrwin #AbolishICE#ReproductiveJustice
Stay tuned for more information!
Written by Anya Victoria, Global Coordinator of FAR.