First Cases Head to Court Soon

For Immediate Release
Windhoek, 20 May 2010

Three women living with HIV who are seeking compensation for the alleged sterilision without their informed consent are scheduled to have their cases heard in the High Court of Namibia on June 1 to 4.

In a show of solidarity with the women, a coalition of civil society organisations from across southern Africa are planning to lead several events to coincide with the dates of the court case. Hospital sit-ins, a mass march of support, a petition hand-over and demonstrations at Namibian embassies in Zambia and South Africa are intended.

The three cases are the first of 15 that will be heard on the merits. The women are asking for compensation for this alleged violation of their human rights.

In 2007, reports emerged that women living with HIV seeking medical care were allegedly subjected to sterilisation without their knowledge or informed consent in state hospitals.

The campaign partners call on all Namibians and civil society organisations to join the planned events to end the alleged involuntary sterilisation of women living with HIV in Namibia. More information about the various activities will be released as the court dates draw closer.

Campaign Partners:
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.

Nappa wants justice

Our campaign continues to gain support. According to a report in the New Era newspaper, the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) has said justice should be accorded to any woman whose rights have been violated as a result of forced sterilisation. Here is their full statement:

Press Statement (Women Sterilisation: 27 October 2009

The Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA), a leading reproductive health and rights non-governmental organisation in Namibia, has been closely monitoring the court case of women who allege to have been sterilised against their will.

By interpretation, coerced Sterilisation is the use of intimidation, fear, pressure duress or deception to get “consent” for the sterilisation procedure. The practice of sterilisation of HIV positive women without informed consent directly violates Article 16(e) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), that provides that all women must be granted “the same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights.” Further to that, Article 14(1) of the Women Protocol provides for the right to health and reproductive right and the right to found a family.

It is NAPPA’s firm belief that the right to health of women including sexual reproductive health should be respected and promoted. This includes; the right to control their fertility, the right to decide whether to have children, the number of children and their spacing of children.

We urge that informed decision-making and consent is particularly important when permanent procedures such as sterilisation are being performed. Informed consent is not merely saying “yes” to a procedure or appending a “signature” to a form.

In such situations, language barriers should be clarified, for instance – where indigenous language speaking women are asked to sign forms written in English consenting to sterilisation during labour or; on their way to the theatre or in theatre with a bunch of other forms for consenting generally to an operation like caesarean section. General practitioners tasked to perform these procedures need to preserve the rights of their clients.

We feel strongly that justice should be accorded to any woman whose rights have been violated as a result of forced sterilisation. Henceforth, we would like to advocate for increased access to reproductive health information and services that will empower all expecting mothers, whether HIV positive or negative, with the right to choose.

As this matter has been brought to the attention of the courts, we have the trust and confidence that a lasting solution will be found.



Press release: March tomorrow

Press Statement
Embargoed for 19 October 2005
Windhoek, October 19 2005

On 20 October, concerned citizens and civil society organisations in Windhoek marched together in protest of the alleged sterilisation of women living with HIV in public health facilities in Namibia. In 2007, reports emerged that women living with HIV, seeking reproductive health services, were allegedly subjected to sterilisation without their full and informed consent in public health facilities in two of the thirteen regions of Namibia.

The march is a component of the “End Forced Sterilisation!”, campaign which aims to raise public awareness of this gross violation of human rights and seek redress for the affected women. It is also a call to the Namibian government to immediately stop the practise of the alleged sterilisation of women living with HIV without their full and informed consent.

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