A talk by Survivors of Symphysiotomy October 16th 12 – 1pm at The Watergate Theatre

4 mins read

SOS, or Survivors of Symphysiotomy, is an Irish membership group consisting of survivors of the symphysiotomy surgery and families of those who have undergone the procedure. The unfunded organisation campaigns for justice to those who have suffered from the surgical procedure which they needlessly endured. Once hygiene, clinical practices, and the improvement of the caesarean section technique improved in the 1900s, the symphysiotomy procedure was largely abandoned in the developed world, with Ireland being the most famous exception. It has been found that the Catholic Church insisted on the procedure to ensure childbearing without limitation during a time when artificial contraceptives were banned, and non-Catholic doctors recommended sterilisation after three caesarean sections. Matilda and Bernadette Behan established survivors of Symphysiotomy in 2002. From 2008 to 2014, many appeals to the Irish Ministers of Health were made, as were some reports into the consequences of symphysiotomy and malpractice, but ultimately, SOS was forced to make a complaint to the United Nations Committee Against Torture due to Ireland’s failure to properly investigate the practice. Four months after the complaint, the Irish government was instructed to investigate the issue by the UN Committee on Human Rights. In 2016, the Irish government awarded payments amounting to €34 million to those aggrieved, but spokesperson Marie O’Connor claims that it’s yet another official whitewash report of the issue.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy talk about their battle for justice at the Watergate Theatre 
Campaigning group, Survivors of Symphysiotomy, are taking their quest for truth to the United Nations. Chairperson Marie O’Connor, said: ‘our battle with the State has been going on now for over twenty years. Survivors in their 70s, 80s and 90s want to see justice done before it’s too late’.
‘Symphysiotomy is a birth operation that severs the pelvis. It was carried out in Ireland from the 1940s to the 1980s instead of Caesarean section by doctors who were opposed to birth control. The surgery, which has been condemned by many international human rights agencies, was life altering, and left women with walking difficulties, chronic pain, and lifetime distress.’
‘This summer, the government tried to persuade the UN Human Rights Committee that there had been no wrongdoing, because these were emergency operations, so doctors could not get women’s consent’.  Thankfully, truth prevailed.’
Ms O’Connor is speaking in the Watergate Theatre on 16 October at 12 noon as part of ‘Resilience’, an exhibition that focuses on women’s capacity to endure and resist. Her talk is entitled: ‘Giving the (married) woman ‘a normal pelvis’: Ireland’s practice of forced symphysiotomy.
For further information, please telephone Marie O’Connor on 086 81 80 254 or email surv1vors0s@gmail.com

Special thanks to Joanna Cunningham for her support.

There is no ticket or booking needed for this talk.

This talk is part of our larger exhibition programme,  Resilience for Kilkenny Arts Office Emerging Curator Development Programme. Full details can be found here

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