Shining a light on Reproductive Coercion White Paper
“The Jehovah’s Witness religion I grew up in made me feel immense pressure to maintain my virginity. I dreaded the prospect of being trapped by a lifelong commitment to a husband in a community that would dictate what we did in the bedroom and I started to realise that I did not belong because I didn’t want to be married or have children in that stifling community.” – Ella, Victoria, Australia
Reproductive Coercion is a hidden form of violence and control that can have life altering consequences.
Reproductive coercion is behaviour that deliberately prevents a person from making decisions about their reproductive health. It includes:
- contraceptive sabotage including “stealthing”
- Pressuring another person into pregnancy
- Forcing a person to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy
- Forcing a person into sterilisation.
When recalling her experience of life in a high control Jehovah’s Witness community, Ella highlighted that women in particular not only experience reproductive coercion driven by the culture of the community*, there are also economic drivers that perpetuate and compound reproductive coercion. Ella outlined that decisions of when to start and end reproduction rests with the typically male provider as the woman is expected to be silent or “in subjection”. Ella describes how lack of income, coupled with lack of control over one’s own body results in fear, obligation and guilt and increases reliance on the public health system. In her recovery, she needed psychological counselling, visits to specialist physiotherapists to relax her shallow breathing and to women’s hospitals for a vulva disorder caused by hyper-contraction.
Ella’s full story as a female raised within the Jehovah’s Witnesses is found on pages 49-51 of the White Paper. See link below: