Windhoek, Namibia © The Advocacy Project
Namibia’s High Court has ruled that the country’s government sterilized without their informed consent three HIV positive women as they gave birth in public hospitals, although the judge rejected the link to their HIV status.
In 2008, the International Community of Women living with HIV and Namibia Women’s Health Network documented many cases of forced sterilization of HIV positive women. With the support of the Legal Assistance Centre and Southern Africa Litigation Centre, in 2010, three women brought their case to court and challenged that this procedure violated their rights to life, privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
This court case mobilized HIV and human rights activists along with pressure from an international media spotlight. In the Delegation’s 2011 report on HIV and enabling legal environments, special attention was given to legal cases on the forced sterilization of HIV positive women in Chile and Namibia. According to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s report “Risks, Rights & Health”, cases have also been documented in Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Zambia.
This court decision is a victory for the rights of HIV positive women and all women’s access to sexual and reproductive rights.
“The Forced and Coerced Sterilization of HIV Positive Women in Namibia”, The International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW)
“How to Fight HIV Criminalization in Courts of Law and Public Opinion”, POZ Magazine
“Sterilized: against our will”, openDemocracy