In India, in the Beed district, the main sugar cane producing area, 36 per cent of agricultural workers are without uterus after having undergone total ablation, often at a young age, to find a job and be more productive. Documenting the ordeal of the Indians employed in the sugar cane fields is a report from the broadcaster France Televisions spread in the program Correspondent.
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Sugar cane is harvested every year for six months in the city of Beed in Maharashtra (central-west), a business that employs over a million workers, half of whom are women. They are generally recruited from mukadam, or agents paid by the owners of the plantations to bring entire families to work in the fields, already from the age of 10. The working conditions are extremely harsh: wake up at 3 am, more than 10 hours of work in the scorching sun and only one day of rest a month. During the six months of the harvest they live in tents set up by the owners of the sugar factories, without running water or electricity. In the fields they are always the infamous mukadam to control agricultural workers and their productivity.
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They are always the ones who suggest to girls and women to proceed with a total hysterectomy, with ablation of the ovaries, to eliminate menstrual pain, problems related to childbirth, presenting the operation as trivial. The doctors in the region who perform the invasive operation argue that by doing so they avoid developing a tumor, in fact a much lower risk to a woman’s health than the consequences of a hysterectomy, especially if performed at a young age. “If they don’t remove the uterus, it’s a problem for us, they’re less productive. And if they have cancer, they’re no longer of any use,” she told. Correspondent a recruiter, Jyotiram Andhale, specifying that the cost of the intervention is their responsibility and that during hospitalization and convalescence they are not paid. “The mukadam screams at us if we don’t work hard enough. She beats us very hard, even when we are sick. Shout out to our husbands that we don’t work hard and that we have to pay back the salary, “a woman told reporters from France Televisions while her husband is busy delivering the freshly cut reeds to the factory.
An early menopause
The reportage entitled The sugar sacrifices has collected the testimonies of female workers, of which over one in three has been subjected to irreversible surgery, some as early as 20 years old. Hysterectomy causes very early menopause as it blocks the production of hormones and makes them sterile. At 30, those who underwent the surgery seem to be 50, with a prematurely aging face and body, but on the other hand no more menstrual pains, no children, and above all greater productivity and a guaranteed job. Often they have no choice but to give in to the pressure of the mukadam to work and be able to make ends meet with the family, paying the highest price on your body. In the rest of India, as elsewhere in the world, this operation affects only 3% of women and in general is performed only on patients over 50 years of age.
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In addition to the damage, the insult: together with Brazil, India is the world‘s largest producer of sugar, but it is also one of the countries with the lowest per capita consumption, so domestic demand is much lower than supply. If all the excess sugar were sold on the Indian market, prices would collapse with serious damage to the entire supply chain. Thus the government pays huge subsidies to export millions of tons. To remedy the chronic excess of sugar – 28 million tons were produced in 2019, with an excess of about 5 million – the lobby of private and state producers united in the Indian Sugar Mills Association is trying to persuade Indians to eat more sugar. with web campaigns and various incentives. Populous India is the largest consumer of sugar in the world overall, but on average each citizen uses 19 kilos per year compared to 23 in many other countries. The powerful producers exalt the properties of sugar and push us to “discover the sweetness in our lives”, in spite of the bitter fate of the women sacrificed in the fields of Maharashtra.