No Evidence That Ethiopian-Israeli Women Were Forced to Take Birth-control Shot, Comptroller Says

Comptroller's probe launched after over 30 women claimed they were forced to take contraceptive injection before immigrating to Israel in 2012 investigative report, which also found 50-percent drop in birth rate of Ethiopian women in a decade.

Members of the Falashmura community in Ethiopia in 2013, waiting to immigrate to Israel
Anshel Pfeffer

There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.

Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.”

Shapira, who launched the investigation in November 2013, wrote in the letter that a full document on his findings will be released next week. He reached his conclusions, he wrote, “based on all the information collected during the probe and considering the existing circumstances and their limitations – the long time that has passed since the women came to live in Israel and the fact that the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency are not subject to state comptroller investigation.”

Shapira launched the probe at the request of a number of women Knesset members, following an investigative report published in December 2012 which included testimony from 35 women immigrants from Ethiopia who said that had been required to receive the birth control shots as a condition for the processing of their request to come to Israel to continue. The main accusations were leveled against the Jewish Agency, the Joint DistributionCommittee and the Health Ministry.

The investigation, conducted by journalist Gal Gabai for the Educational Television series “Vacuum,” found an almost 50-percent drop in the birth rate of Ethiopian women in a decade. According to the program, a methodical system was at work regarding administration of the hormone shot, Depo-Provera, effective for three months, in transit facilities housing Ethiopians waiting to come to Israel and thereafter in Israel.

In response, then-Health Ministry deputy director general Prof. Roni Gamzu wrote a letter to the country’s four health management organizations in January 2013, in which he directed them not to automatically administer birth control shots to Ethiopian women. Gamzu called for “suitable cultural access, with the assistance as needed of mediators from the Ethiopian community or medical translating services.”

Shapira had harsh words in his letter about the attitude of Israeli society to Ethiopian immigrants, which he said contributes to their sense of discrimination. He said one reason for this sense was that they feel they are not masters of their own fate, desires or dignity.

“It is our obligation as a democratic and progressive society to fulfill the obligation to human dignity and liberty, as the Basic Law says to ensure equality as determined in the Declaration of Independence,” Shapira wrote.