We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Compulsory Sterilization?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Compulsory sterilization is a government policy which mandates the sterilization of certain individuals under specific conditions. Historically, several nations have had compulsory sterilization laws on the books as part of a negative eugenics program, designed to ensure that certain people do not contribute to the gene pool. When mandatory sterilization is practiced systematically against a particular group, it is considered to be a crime against humanity.

Eugenics is a field of study which suggests that it is possible to improve the human race through selective breeding. Just as when animals are bred, selective breeding of humans involves selecting specific individuals for their positive traits and encouraging them to have children, and dissuading childbearing among individuals who are perceived as undesirable. When eugenics involves an active promotion of traits which are deemed to be beneficial, it is known as positive eugenics. Negative eugenics involves restricting entrance to the gene pool.

Most compulsory sterilization laws mandated sterilization for people like the residents of mental institutions, repeat criminal offenders, people who were viewed as “immoral,” and people with disabilities. Often, such laws also focused on the lower classes, out of the belief that people living in poverty would have a negative effect on the human gene pool. Under a mandatory sterilization law, men and women could be sterilized without consent, and sometimes without their knowledge; for example, a woman going in for a routine surgery might be subjected to a tubal ligation at the same time.

The United States, India, China, Germany, and Sweden all practiced mandatory sterilization at some point in history, among many other nations. Germany is perhaps most infamous for its compulsory sterilization policies, which were designed to maintain the purity of the so-called Aryan Race. In some cases, mandatory sterilization legislation was struck from the books as recently as 1990, although the practice had been largely abolished long before.

Compulsory sterilization is usually accomplished through surgical means, but it can also take the form of chemical castration, which inhibits sex drive as well as preventing reproduction. Both surgical and chemical methods applied without consent are generally viewed as a violation of human rights around the world, although some nations support the use of chemical castration for sex offenders.

In addition to compulsory sterilization, it is also possible to find coerced sterilization. In the case of coerced sterilization, someone is not forced outright to be sterilized, but he or she is given little choice. India and China have both been accused of using coerced sterilization as a method of population control, and as a political tool to target ethnic and religious minorities.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On Mar 24, 2014

It's an awful thought that compulsory sterilization still exists, but it does. The U.S. wasn't completely in step with eugenics as much as the desire to help eliminate "defective" people, like those with Down Syndrome or similar. It wasn't an attempt to breed for certain characteristics, but rather to eliminate a perceived defect. The results were the same, however, and led to serious abuses of the system.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.