Amy Hsieh of the International Community of Women Living with HIV shares the experiences of its members who have been forcibly sterilized because they were living with HIV.
My name is Amy Hsieh and I am reading this statement on behalf of Jennifer Gatsi, a member of the International Community of Women Living with HIV. Today, I will share the experience of our members with forced sterilization.
At a workshop on sexual and reproductive health and rights in 2008, a young woman living with HIV shared what happened when she went to the hospital to give birth. While being wheeled into the operation theatre, she was asked to sign a stack of papers among them a consent form for sterilization. She only learned that she was sterilized afterwards.
Another young woman shared that while she could be open with her husband about her HIV status, after she told her husband that she has been sterilized, her husband is now leaving her.
Such cases have been documented from as far back as 2001 and yet no one realized this was happening until now. It continues to happen today in many countries, including Namibia, Swaziland, and Kenya. And those who have spoken out are just the tip of the iceberg.
Forced sterilization has robbed these young women living with HIV of their right to information, the right to health, the right to bodily integrity, the right to non-discrimination, the right to equality, the right to live free from inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to non-interference in one’s privacy, the right to health, and the right to reproductive self-determination.
On 20 October 2009, the High Court of Namibia began hearing the case of three women living with HIV who have been coercively sterilized at public hospitals in Namibia. They have alleged that their rights to be free from discrimination, dignity, found a family, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment have been violated.
The good news here is that the legal environment allowed these women living with HIV to access the legal system and use the courts to seek redress.
However, the bad news is that that their justice has been delayed. Although all hearings have occurred, the women who brought these cases have been awaiting judgment since February 2011. Remember, these women have been awaiting redress since they were sterilized, as far back at 2001. As we all know, justice delayed is justice denied. So this kind of access amounts to no access to justice at all.