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Three HIV-positive women in Namibia have been coercively sterilised in violation of their basic rights, the High Court in Windhoek found yesterday.

The Southern African Litigation Centre said the court ruled that obtaining consent from women when they were in severe pain or in labour did not constitute informed consent.

The court said that the failure to obtain the three women’s informed consent violated their rights under common law.

The women will be awarded damages but the amount is still to be decided.

“This decision is a big victory for HIV-positive women in Namibia,” said Nicole Fritz, executive director of the litigation centre.

The HIV-positive women sought pre-natal services at public hospitals in Namibia.

“These three cases represent only the tip of the iceberg.

“HIV-positive women have come forward alleging that they were similarly subjected to coerced sterilisation at public hospitals in Namibia,” said Fritz.

She said dozens of similar cases had been documented in Namibia but little action had been taken.

The centre’s deputy director, Priti Patel, said the court’s decision was the first step in ensuring that no other woman would be coercively sterilised in Namibia.

“Now the government must investigate all the other cases to ensure justice for every woman who has been coercively sterilised.”

UNAIDS estimates that there are 180000 people living with HIV in Namibia.


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