Do Wives Have Less Reproductive Rights Than Their Husbands?

Do Wives Have Less Reproductive Rights Than Their Husbands?

In Malaysia a woman needs her husband's approval if she wishes to undergo a sterilization procedure like a bilateral tubal ligation

Did you know that in Malaysia a woman needs her husband’s approval if she chooses to undergo a sterilization procedure? At least according to this article published by the Malay Mail Online.

Sterilization Rules:

A married woman who wishes to have a bilateral tubal ligation (BTL), a procedure to ‘get the tubes tied’, are required to submit a consent form signed by the husband. If he’s not around to sign it, verbal approval can be accepted.


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However, if a married man wishes to have a vasectomy, a procedure which prevents the release of sperm when a man ejaculates, he does not need his wife’s consent.


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Both surgeries are considered sterilization procedures: permanent forms of birth control, although in some cases they can be reversed successfully.

Why Is Consent Needed?


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Forms such as these are used as a ‘practice’ to ‘preserve marriage harmony’ at hospitals in Malaysia. A medical officer at a government clinic called the situation a “grey zone” as Malaysia is a “Muslim country” so a lot of rules are based on that.

“So if the husband disagrees to the procedure but the wife is adamant, the doctor will not be penalized if the case was brought to court,” he said.

Health Ministry Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah explained that consent from their spouse is “necessary” if women were “dependent” on their husbands.



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Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Philip said most doctors in private practice do require both partners to consent to a sterilization procedure. Whether vasectomy or tubal ligation, this is to avoid “future problems.”

“If both partners are not in accord, perhaps the relationship needs work, and you should avoid a potentially irreversible step. After all, there are many other methods of contraception,” he said.

Dr Ashok also said that he was not aware of any regulations in government hospitals that apply only to women but not men.

“Perhaps individual consultants may have different requirements, but I do not think it is government policy,” he said.

credit: themalaymailonline

Know Your Rights

See some of these FAQs answered on Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM) on consent:

Can a woman get an abortion without her husband’s consent?

Yes. An individual has autonomy over his or her own body.

Does a woman need her husband’s consent for abortion, contraception or sterilization?

By law, women do not need their spouse’s permission for an abortion, contraception or sterilization, but some doctors prefer both partners to agree to the procedure after information and counseling. However, in law, any suggestion by the doctor to include the male spouse in counseling is subject to the woman’s consent. Some hospitals may have this as a policy as well. RRAAM can recommend doctors who respect women’s right to autonomy.

If the husband is abusive, does she still need his permission for an abortion?

No. All reproductive issues, including abortion, contraception and sterilization, can be performed over the objection of the spouse. Each person has autonomy over his or her own body.

Can a woman get sterilized (or a bilateral tubal ligation), contraceptives, or a medical (or medication) abortion without her husband’s consent?

Yes. An individual has autonomy over his or her own body.

But Would You?

After knowing your reproductive rights as a woman, would you proceed without consent? Especially when you are in a healthy, loving relationship with your spouse? I personally wouldn’t.

A marriage is a union between two: through thick and thin you are a team. Deciding to undergo a reproductive sterilization procedure should be agreed by both parties. It is definitely not something I would ever decide on my own, without respecting my better half’s opinion.

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