ALL eyes will be on Namibia next week when the case of HIV-positive women, allegedly sterilised in State hospitals without their consent, goes to court.
The three women are suing the Ministry of Health and Social Services for one million Namibian dollars each.
Hundreds of women and men from across southern Africa are planning to participate in solidarity events from June 1 to 4 – the days that the case will be on the High Court roll in Windhoek.
Hospital sit-ins will also be carried out at the Katutura State Hospital in Windhoek – where some of the forced sterilisations allegedly took place – and at the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital near Ondangwa.
A petition will be handed over to the ministry on the first day of the court hearing.
“We, concerned citizens and civil society organisations from Namibia and around the globe, condemn the alleged sterilisation of women living with HIV without their consent in public health facilities in Namibia and call for an end to this practice,” the petition states.
The rights that the petitioners allege were violated include “the right to liberty and security of the person; to health, to found a family, including reproductive health; to family planning; to privacy; to equality; to freedom from discrimination; and to life”.
The Namibian understands that protest action against these alleged human rights violations will also take place in the United States and Britain.
Human rights activists were shocked when the alleged forced sterilisations came to light in 2007.
According to the communication officer of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Mark Nonkes, the three cases are the first of 15 that will be heard.
The co-ordinator of the LAC’s AIDS Law Unit, Amon Ngavetene, said: “Sterilisation of women living with HIV without their consent also has serious implications for the health care system as a whole.”
This, he said, is because the “fear of discrimination and mistreatment can discourage women from seeking healthcare services and can undermine the Government’s gains in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services and the HIV response as a whole”.
The campaign to end forced sterilisations is driven by the LAC, the Namibia Women’s Health Network, the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, Women’s Solidarity Namibia, Women’s Leadership Centre, Sister Namibia, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Nonkes said.