Namibian Supreme Court holds government liable for forcibly sterilizing HIV-positive women

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Monday, Namibia's Supreme Court ruled in favor of three HIV-positive women who had been sterilized without their consent after giving birth.
Chief Justice Peter Shivute ruled that the doctors should not have sterilised the women and ordered consideration of damages for the victims, who each claimed one million rand (about $90,000).

The director of the Namibian Women's Health Network, Jennifer Gatsi Mallet, applauded the decision, saying the cases were only the tip of the iceberg.

"We have documented dozens of cases of other HIV-positive women who have been forcibly sterilised. The government needs to take active steps to ensure all women subjected to this unlawful practice get redress," she said.

Mallet said the decision proves that "public hospitals in Namibia have been coercively sterilising HIV-positive women without their consent."

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which backed the women in their legal challenge, said the decision had far-reaching consequences for HIV-positive women throughout Africa who have been forcibly sterilised.

"This decision sends a clear message that governments throughout Africa must take concrete actions to end this practice," said deputy director Priti Patel.
The ruling itself was hailed as a human rights victory; however, the fact that this is still happening is beyond appalling. Shamefully, forced sterilization of HIV-positive women is not uncommon - just last month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights took up a similar case by a Chilean woman.

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