Hundreds Planning Solidarity Action

Press Release
28 May 2010
For Immediate Release

Hundreds of men and women from across southern Africa are planning to take part in solidarity events as three women who were allegedly sterilised without their informed consent take their cases to the High Court of Namibia from 1 to 4 June 2010. The women, who are all living with HIV/AIDS, are each suing the Ministry of Health and Social Services for 1 million dollars as compensation for the damages they have suffered.

“Namibia has an extremely high HIV prevalence, fuelled by stigma against people living with HIV. These cases illustrate that women living with HIV are highly vulnerable to human rights violations,” said Rosa Namises, Director of Women’s Solidarity Namibia.

Hundreds of people who consider coerced and forced sterilisation a distinct violation of rights will participate in a series of solidarity events that will coincide with the court proceedings. Hospital sit-ins at Katutura State Hospital in Windhoek (where some of the alleged cases of sterilisation took place) and at the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital in Ondangwa are planned throughout the court case. A mass march and petition hand-over to the Ministry of Health is planned on the first day of the case – 01 June 2010. Additional demonstrations of solidarity are expected to take place in Zambia, South Africa, the U.K and America.

“The law states that we should all be treated equally” says Veronica Kalambi of the Namibia Women’s Health Network. “That means that people living with HIV should have the same rights as everyone else – including the right to found a family.”

Reports of sterilisation of HIV positive women first emerged in 2007, claiming that women living with HIV seeking medical care in state hospitals were allegedly subjected to sterilisation without their knowledge or informed consent. The three cases are the first of 15 that will be heard on these merits, says Legal Assistance Centre lawyer Linda Dumba-Chicalu.

“Sterilisation of women living with HIV without their consent also has serious implications for the health care system as a whole,” explains Amon Ngavetene, coordinator of the AIDS Law Unit of the Legal Assistance Centre. “Fear of discrimination and mistreatment can discourage women from seeking health care services and can undermine the government’s gains in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services and the HIV response as a whole.”

Partners working on the campaign to end forced sterilisation include: Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia Women’s Health Network, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, Women’s Solidarity Namibia, Women’s Leadership Centre, Sister Namibia, Southern Africa Litigation Centre, and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

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