International Human Rights Clinic

This guide is for students in the International Human Rights Clinic.

United Nations

In 2014, several United Nations agencies collaborated on the publication Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization: an interagency statement. This interagency statement notes that forced sterilization has been used disproportionatly against people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, and transgender and intersex persons. It lists the various human rights violated by sterilization without consent: rights to health, information, and privacy, reproductive rights, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Regional and international human rights bodies have also condemned forced sterilization as a form of violence against women, as well as a violation of ethical principles. The 2014 UN publication includes an extensive bibliography of sources, cross-referenced to statements in the text.

Additional information on efforts to combat forced sterilization can be found at the websites of individual agencies, such as:

  • OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights],
  • UN Women [United Nations Agency for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women],
  • UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS],
  • UNDP [United Nations Development Programme],
  • UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund],
  • UNICEF [United Nations Children Fund], and
  • WHO [World Health Organization].

Do a general search at any of the above websites for sterilization, sterilisation, forced sterilization or look for topic headings such as reproductive rights, women's rights, violence against women, etc.

Among the major human rights treaties, declarations and other documents often cited in support of ending forced sterilization are:

United Nations conferences calling for the protection of reproductive rights:

Regional Human Rights Organizations

Regional courts have decided cases involving involuntary sterilization. It has been found to violate provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. A case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will determine whether forced sterilization is also a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights.

The newer Council of European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) explicitly condemns forced sterilization and requires "due diligence" of states to prevent and punish violence against women by non-state actors:

A July 2015 Fact Sheet on Roma and Travellers lists the following sterilization cases brought in the European Court of Human Rights:

Turkey's sterilization requirement as a prerequisite to gender reassignment surgery was found to violate the European Convention.

The following case is pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

See Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities / Center for Reproductive Rights (2010)


Search OSCAR, the Santa Clara University library catalog, for print sources on forced sterilization. You can begin with OSCAR Keyword Searches, such as:

  • involuntary sterilization
  • forced sterilization
  • coercive sterilization
  • compulsory sterilization
  • sterilisation [The British spelling is used in some publications.]

When you find a book that looks like it will be useful for your research (The surgical solution : a history of involuntary sterilization in the United States / Philip R. Reilly), look for the Subject headings in the OSCAR record for that book (e.g., Eugenics -- United States -- History.; People with mental disabilities -- Surgery -- United States -- History.). You can click on the Subject headings to find more books on the same topic.

You can also search OSCAR by subject. Some suggested OSCAR Subject Searches to find materials about forced sterilization are:

  • Involuntary Sterilization
  • Eugenics
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Human Body – law and legislation

Here are some recent books in the SCU libraries that you may find helpful. Note the Location in rhe OSCAR records; some of these books are in the University Library:

If you need a book that is not available at SCU, Search LINK+ to see if the book is available from another library in the LINK+ consortium:

You can request LINK+ books yourself. Click on REQUEST THIS ITEM in the LINK+ record and supply the requested information. It usually takes about a week for a LINK+ book to arrive. You will receive an email telling you to pick it up at the University Library.

If you need a book that is not available at SCU or via LINK+, you can make an interlibrary loan request for the book. Register online the first time you use our interlibrary loan system, ILLiad. You will receive an email when an interlibrary loan book arrives; you can pick up interlibrary loan books at Mabie Law Library's circulation desk, Information Services.

Ask any Mabie Research Librarian for help using OSCAR, LINK+ or ILLiad interlibrary loan. We are happy to show you how to find the books you need.


Lexis Advance and Westlaw

Both Lexis and Westlaw have extensive collections of journal articles. You can use the main search box on each of these databases to look for materials about forced sterilization / involuntary sterilization, then use the left-hand column to limit the results to secondary sources.

You can also limit your initial search to secondary sources, by using filters on Lexis or by selecting "Secondary Sources" as a  content area on Westlaw.

You can also use search terms, connectors and special characters in a Lexis or Westlaw search, such as:

  • Westlaw Searches = TI(force! /1 sterili!); TI(involuntary /1 sterili!)

  • Lexis Searches = Title(force! /1 sterili!); Title(involuntary /1 sterili!)

If you need help searching Lexis or Westlaw, you can ask any research librarian for assistance; you can call the Lexis (1-800-45-LEXIS) or Westlaw (1-800-Westlaw) helplines; or you can contact a Lexis and Westlaw representative. Sign in at the Lexis and Westlaw homepage for our representatives' contact information.

Hein Online

The Hein Online Law Journal Library contains the full text of many U.S. law journals in pdf format. > Legal Scholarship Network

The Legal Scholarship Network portion of the Social Science Research Network contains many law review articles, some articles which have not yet been published, and some links to articles available on digital repositories.

Index to legal periodicals; Index to foreign legal periodicals

These legal indices contain some articles in full text, but many additional citations to articles that may be available elsewhere, in SCU libraries or via interlibrary loan.

Suggested searches = sterilization; involuntary sterilization; compulsory sterilization; coerced sterilization; forced sterilization

A few citations to articles on forced sterilization from other countries:

  • Consideraciones ético jurídicas sobre la esterilización en la Argentina / Bavio, P.S.
    Revista Jurídica del Perú, no.64:261-315 (2005)
  • Non-consensual sterilisation of the intellectually disabled in the Australian context: potential for human rights abuse and the need for reform / Little, H.. Australian Year Book of International Law, 14:203-226 (1993)
  • Sterilisation of the mentally disabled in English and Canadian law / Norrie, K.M. International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 38:387-395 (1989)


Note that many of the articles indexed in the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals are not in English. Also, SCU may not subscribe to all of the English language journals indexed. However, we will be happy to show you how to request journal articles using ILLiad, our interlibrary loan system.

Heafey Law Library Research Team