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Women in a California prison

Director Erika Cohn’s new film, Belly of the Beast, part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival which goes digital in the U.S. from June 11 to 20, brings to the fore the undeniable and continued legacy of eugenics and forced sterilization in the state of California. 

The documentary follows the case of Kelli Dillon, a black mother who was told she had cysts and needed surgery while incarcerated, only to discover, over a year later and after months of menopausal symptoms and extreme weight loss at the age of 24, that she had been given a hysterectomy (Dillon’s doctors never told her they had performed a hysterectomy on her). Risking retaliation, Dillon decided to speak out even while she was still in jail and teamed up with the prison abolition legal aid organization Justice Now, founded by attorney Cynthia Chandler, to find justice. Belly of the Beast is about the freedom work Dillon, Chandler, and the Justice Now team—whose board members are all currently incarcerated women—do against all odds in the service of female survivors of... see more