HIV Positive Women in Namibia Sue After Forced Sterilizations

Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.
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Human rights continue to lag behind for women in Africa. (Photo: Jacky Naegalen/Reuters)

In Namibia, HIV-positive women are claiming to have been sterilized without consent. Fifteen individual cases have been reported since February 2008. Many other cases are suspected.

Two-thirds of the world’s 33 million HIV-infected people live in Africa. UNAIDS estimates that there are approximately 200,000 people living with HIV in Namibia alone. More than half of them are women and girls.

While taking measures to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the incurable disease are extremely important, no credible expert believes that the sterilization of women without their consent is an answer.

With the support of the Legal Assistance Centre in Namibia, three women are speaking up against this human rights violation and are suing the state.

According to a BBC report, when HIV-positive Namibian woman visit a hospital, they are often encouraged to undergo a sterilization procedure. The three women who are suing claim that doctors did not inform them properly about what was happening. Gladys Kamboo, a spokesperson for Namibia's health ministry, claims the ministry had not intentionally harmed the women.

A hearing in the case will take place this Friday. Protests are expected Wednesday at the hospitals where the sterilizations took place.

According to the LAC:

Sterilisation without informed consent violates a woman’s constitutional, regional and internationally protected rights to equality, dignity, non-discrimination, health—which includes the right to make one’s own decision about health care, to found a family and to fair administrative justice, including the right to proper treatment by hospital administration through medical ethics.

Reported by AllAfrica.com, Vicky Noa, a woman claiming to have been sterilized in 2001, says, "People should have peace of mind that if they are HIV-positive, they can still go to the hospital and be treated with dignity and equality."


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