PETALING JAYA: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy today said he would hold further discussions with Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad over the issue of Orang Asli women being given birth control pills to treat anaemia.
Speaking to FMT, Waytha said there had been a lack of understanding on the part of health officials on the special needs of the Orang Asli when they complained about being given birth control pills.
“We can appreciate the health ministry’s concern, but I think this episode highlights the gap that exists between the Orang Asli and health officials, and the onus is on the health officials to really ensure that there is no gap.
“I think greater care and communication is needed to explain to the Orang Asli their condition and the risks they have having children while suffering from anaemia,” Waytha, who is in charge of national unity and social well-being, said.
Yesterday, Dzulkefly said the birth control medication given to Orang Asli women was meant to reduce pregnancy complications linked to anaemia.
He said it was part of an intervention programme as it is important for women with anaemia to avoid pregnancy. He also said that the medication was given “out of a sense of responsibility”.
But Waytha said having children is a deeply personal decision and the government has no intention of intruding into the personal lives of the Orang Asli.
He said the focus should be on raising awareness among the Orang Asli on the condition, and that all efforts to treat it should be exhausted before resorting to preventing pregnancy.
“I will be pushing and facilitating the greater involvement of NGOs to assist health officials in this area.
“As these NGOs work very closely with the community, they will prove useful in bridging the gap between the Orang Asli and health officials,” he said.
On Tuesday, five representatives from Orang Asli villages submitted a memorandum to the government claiming, among others, that Orang Asli women had been given birth control pills without proper information.
They demanded that the government stop this practice.
They also alleged that government health officers had forced the women in their community to take injections and birth control medication.