Debunking the ‘wanda pethi’ hoax

On 27 February, a tense situation arose in Ampara with a mosque and at least four shops, owned by Muslims, being damaged and three people sustaining injuries in a clash, which flared up when some tablets were allegedly found in a meal served in a wayside restaurant to a customer, who was a Sinhalese.

‘Muslim restaurant owners mix tablets (wanda pethi is the common term for these tablets) which are believed to cause permanent sterilization in the meals they serve to Sinhalese customers, is a rumour that had been spread amongst the Sinhalese community a few years ago. That’s not all. There is also another rumour that women’s undergarments are sprayed with chemicals that cause sterilization by the owners of Muslim clothing shops.

These types of rumours were planted by certain organizations claiming to be ‘patriots.’ The call for banning Muslim owned shops was also made by them.

However, the question is, is there any truth behind these rumours? Also, can a man or a woman be rendered barren by tablets mixed with their food or spraying chemicals on to their undergarments? Is there any scientific evidence for that?
Ceylon Today contacted Dr. Sankalpa Marasinghe, a neonatologist at De Zoysa Women’s Hospital, Colombo, to discover if there was anything called ‘wanda pethi’ which can cause permanent sterilization, by swallowing or mixing it with the food.
« First of all, the general public should understand the meaning of permanent sterilization, » Dr. Marasinghe said.

He added that permanent sterilization prevents pregnancy permanently. The procedure for men is a vasectomy and for women it is tubal ligation (LRT). In the Western Medicine field these two methods are the only options if someone doesn’t want to have children anymore. Preventing pregnancy for a planned period of time is known as contraception aka birth control.

« However, most Sri Lankans do not have a clear idea about the difference between these two terms. They think that Contraception and Permanent Sterilization is basically the same. But, if you use contraception methods you can get pregnant after you stop consuming them. But if vasectomy or LRT is performed on you, then you will not get pregnant ever again. The failure rates of vasectomy and LRT is very minimal, » he explained.

Dr. Marasinghe further said, « For contraception, there are several methods including tablets, implants and devices. For an example, if someone hopes to prevent pregnancy for one year, that person can choose a suitable contraception method accordingly. And, that person should consume it properly. Contraceptive tablets have to be taken daily, otherwise attempts to prevent pregnancy temporary will not work. Furthermore, there are tablets which prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after an unprotected sexual intercourse. Such tablets are named as Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP). »

Ceylon Today then asked Dr. Marasinghe if there was any possibility that permanent sterilization can be caused from consuming such tablets after mixing them with the food.

It is not possible, Dr. Marasinghe said and added that even if someone mixed the tablets mentioned above, in food and consumes it a few times, it was not possible to cause permanent sterilization.
« However, some medical treatments and hormones designed to treat certain health conditions can affect the human reproductive system. Chemotherapy and GnRhanalog can be given as examples for that. But there are a few facts you should be aware of about these treatments.

« The primary objective of such treatments is not aimed at the reproductive system. Weakening the ability of reproduction is a side effect of consuming them. Even if you mix such medicine with the food, there won’t be any permanent sterilization. Moreover, such medicine cannot be purchased easily due to the limitations of production and distribution. If someone secretly transfused such medicine to another one’s body then, the latter will get symptoms of certain kinds of illnesses and side effects prior to the halt in the reproductive ability.

« In theory, one can say that tablets and hormones designed for certain illnesses can affect the reproductive system. However, practically you cannot sterilize someone permanently by mixing tablets with their food. If someone tries to do so, the subject will have side effects and toxicity as I explained earlier, » he said.

« But if someone consumes cigarettes daily, there is a high probability of that person becoming sterilized. And that has been scientifically proved unlike these ‘wanda pethi’ remours, » Dr. Marasinghe concluded.

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