The Namibian High Court ruled in favor of 3 HIV-positive women who were coerced into receiving sterilizations when they went to state hospitals to have their babies. The women reported that they went to the hospital to have a caesarean section since they were HIV and wanted to prevent transmission to their child. While at the hospital they were told they could only have the procedure if they consented to be sterilized.
The court ruled that their human rights had been violated but did not find there was discrimination based on their HIV status. Priti Patel of the legal group Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) that represented the women said “This judgment makes clear that obtaining consent while a woman is in labour or in severe pain violates clear legal principles.”
SALC’s Patel noted that the judgment would have an impact beyond Namibia. She said there were anecdotal reports of similar practices in Swaziland, and documented cases in South Africa, in which SALC was involved.
“This case does have implications in other countries,” Patel said. “It brings the issue to the attention of countries in southern Africa, allowing them to take the necessary steps to ensure the practice isn’t happening in their country, and if it is, that the practice is stopped.”
Sixteen similar cases are pending.
Lisa Correnti is the Director of Operations for C-FAM.