PETALING JAYA: Contraceptive injections given to Orang Asli in cases where pregnancy would be a health risk are voluntary and there is no coercion, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad emphasised.
And neither are the Orang Asli forced to take the haematinic injections meant to treat anaemia, a condition which could pose a risk to the women if they are pregnant.
Stressing that it is not an issue of anaemia but alleged forced treatment and consent, he said: “The Orang Asli are a marginalised population and the word ‘forced’ must have been framed on them.
“We must pre-empt and debunk the nuances and insinuation by critics that we are using force on the Orang Asli, as if our officers are practising eugenics. Are the critics suggesting that? This is a very serious allegation if so. And as I mentioned earlier, the onus is on them to provide us with the proof and evidence for us to investigate.”
Dzulkefly was commenting on a report that veteran specialist Dr Milton Lum had reacted strongly to his claim that allegations of birth control injections being forced on the Orang Asli community needed more proof before an investigation is warranted.
Malaysiakini quoted Lum as saying: “The allegations are very serious and merit an investigation. The question is whether there was consent to the contraception administered, irrespective of whether it was oral or injection.”
Dzulkefly emphasised that preventing anaemia in women by adequate child spacing through family planning is equally, if not more, important than treating anaemia with haematinics.
“What Dr Milton Lum says is, of course, correct. Anaemia is a medical condition and its treatment is haematinics, especially iron and folate, in order to increase the haemoglobin levels.
“What I meant in my statement regarding anaemia among Orang Asli women was in reference to anaemia contributed by repeated pregnancies during which the woman needs extra nutrients for herself and the baby she carries.
“We cannot deny that more often than not, these women have a diet that has inadequate nutrients including iron and folate.”
He said the women could get help if they have access to antenatal care in government health clinics.
In Sungkai, Perak, two days ago, Dzulkefly said his ministry’s family planning programme for the indigenous community only gave such birth control medication to women already with health issues such as anaemia.
“The plan was launched based on the government’s responsibility to protect them from at risk pregnancies. It is very important to avoid pregnancy during that vulnerable period,” he said.
He also stressed that the birth control medication was not permanent and they would be able to conceive once the medicine wears off.