Everyone has a right to control their reproductive health choices. But for some people this is sadly not a reality.
Reproductive coercion is a vast, yet hidden problem in Australia.
What is reproductive coercion?
Reproductive coercion is behaviour that interferes with the autonomy of a person to make decisions about their reproductive health. Reproductive coercion includes any behaviour that has the intention of controlling or constraining another person’s reproductive health decision-making and can take a variety of forms. For example:
- Sabotage of another person’s contraception. For example, deliberately removing or damaging a condom, or hiding or disposing of oral contraceptives.
- Pressuring another person into pregnancy.
- Controlling the outcome of another person’s pregnancy. For example, forcing someone towards abortion, adoption, care, kinship care or parenting.
- Forcing or coercing a person into sterilisation, including tubal ligation, vasectomy and hysterectomy.
Reproductive coercion is a deliberate abuse of power that can be exerted using physical violence, such as sexual assault, but can also occur in the absence of physical violence.
Reproductive coercion is a form of gender based violence. It is not uniquely experienced by women, and can be experienced by people of all genders, trans and non-binary people.
What drives reproductive coercion?
Reproductive Coercion can occur on an interpersonal level within intimate partnerships or within families. It can also occur on a structural level where social, political, economic aspects can prevent people from making decisions about their reproductive health.
How can we address reproductive coercion?
MSI Australia coordinated a White Paper on Reproductive Coercion to draw attention to this issue.
Hidden Forces is a paper on reproductive coercion in contexts of family and domestic violence. It collates research and data on reproductive coercion from Australia and internationally. It highlights the links between reproductive coercion and family violence, domestic violence and sexual violence.
Hidden Forces provides a series of research, strategy, policy and practice recommendations to address reproductive coercion.
How was the Hidden Forces white paper developed?
The Hidden Forces white paper was been developed after extensive consultation across the health, academic, legal, media and political sectors.
The first edition was published in 2018, the second edition was published in 2020 and it will be reviewed in 2022.
MSI Australia would like to thank all of those who contributed to the Hidden Forces white paper, including the victim-survivors who shared their experiences.
In many ways people across sectors in Australia are still building evidence on and understandings of reproductive coercion. Thank you to everyone who has committed to ongoing research, policy and practice development.