We have the right to choose.” This was the key message women conveyed when they are marching against the alleged sterilisation of HIV-positive women in state hospitals this week.
Rosa Namises of Women’s Solidarity Namibia, said the alleged sterilisation of women without their consent is a gross violation of human rights.
“Together, we as Namibian citizens are standing up against human rights abuse because this issue does not only affect the women who were sterilised or those living with HIV. It is a gross violation against all women, our communities and our constitutional rights! These violations are happening to vulnerable women who come to public hospitals for help, and it can happen to you or someone close to you. We have to do our part in calling for an end to the alleged sterilisation of our women without their informed consent,” said Namises.
According to the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), the first reports of forced sterilisation surfaced in 2007. These reports state that women seeking medical care were subjected to sterilisation without informed consent at state hospitals in two of the 13 regions in the country.
Since February 2008, 15 individual cases have been discovered.
In a petition addressed to the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, civil society organisations called on the government not to tolerate the violation of any woman’s rights and that it should respect people’s choices to make free and informed healthcare decisions.
“We believe that numerous human rights have been violated, including those guaranteed and protected under the Namibian Constitution and International treaties. These include, but are not limited to, the right of liberty and security of the person, to health, to family including reproductive health, to family planning, to privacy, to equality, to freedom from discrimination and to life. The government must send a clear message that it will not tolerate the violation of any woman’s rights and that the government respects one’s choices to make free and informed healthcare decisions, particularly in regard to reproductive choices,” the organisations state.
The “End forced sterilisation” campaign is organised by the LAC, Women’s Leadership Centre, AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, Women’s Solidarity Namibia and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS.
Civil society organisations such as Sister Namibia and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre are also involved in the campaign.
The “End forced sterilisation” campaign is aimed at raising public awareness regarding forced sterilisation and to seek compensation for the affected women.
The LAC will be litigating on behalf of six women who were allegedly sterilised without their consent at the Katutura State and Windhoek Central hospitals respectively. The case will be heard in the High Court.