News

MARCH TOMORROW

Press Statement
Embargoed for 19 October 2009
Windhoek, October 19 2009

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.

The campaign supports litigation by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) against the government of Namibia on behalf of 6 affected women seeking redress in the High Court for the violation of numerous human rights guaranteed and protected under the Namibian Constitution and international human rights instruments. The march on 20 October will coincide with the commencement of court proceedings.

“Together, we as Namibian citizens are standing up against human rights abuses because this issue does not only affect the women who were sterilised, or those living with HIV. It is a gross violation against all women, our communities and our constitutional rights,” explained Rosa Namises of Women’s Solidarity Namibia.

The public will converge at the Red Cross Shopping Centre in Independence Avenue, Katutura at 8:30 and will march past Katutura State Hospital and Central Hospitals where some of the alleged violations occurred, to the High Court in Lazarett Street.

“We call on everyone in Windhoek who is in a position to attend to be part of this protest. These violations are happening to vulnerable women who come to public hospitals for help and it can happen to you or someone close to you. We have to do our part in calling for an end to the alleged sterilisation of our women without their informed consent!” said Rosa Namises.

Buses will provide transport to the Red Cross Shopping Centre from 07:30 AM at the following bus stations: Havana bus stop, Havana; Otjomuise Woermann Brock, Otjomuise; Owambo bus stop; Damara bus stop; Maxuilili Community Centre, Babylon; Open Market, Okahandja Park; Hakahana Clinic, Hakahana; Soweto Market, Soweto; Lyeeta, Okuryangava; Women’s Centre, Okuryangava; Woermann Brock, Wanaheda; Woermann Brock, Goreangab Dam. The buses will return to the pick-up points from the High Court at 12:00 PM.

A petition, which was launched at a press briefing at the LAC on 15 October 2009 calling for an end to the alleged forced sterilisation, will be distributed to collect signatures in support of demands for redress for the affected women. Signatures will be collected until the 10 December, Human Rights Day, which also marks the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.

The following campaign partners call on all Namibians and civil society organisations to sign the petition and join the march to end sterilisation without informed consent of women living with HIV in Namibia: 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.

For further information please contact:
Mark Nonkes
Legal Assistance Centre of Namibia
Tel.: + 264 (61)223356
e-mail: mnonkes@lac.org.na

Gillian Parenzee
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Tel.: + 264 (61) 300381

Press Statement

Windhoek, October 15 2009

A coalition of civil society organisations calls on Namibians to join a campaign condemning the sterilisation of women living with HIV without their informed consent.

In a briefing this morning, the organisations launched a public petition demanding that the government of Namibia, in particular the Ministry of Health and Social Services, immediately stop the sterilisation of women living with HIV without their full and informed consent in public health facilities in Namibia. The organisations also launched a campaign, which includes plans to march in support of the women when court proceedings, scheduled for 20 October, commence.

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

“The sterilisation of women living with HIV without their full and informed consent is a serious human rights violation. Namibians should stand up against this injustice which threatens the constitutional and internationally protected rights to equality, dignity, health, to found a family and to fair administrative justice, including the right to proper treatment by hospital administration through medical ethics,” explains Amon Ngavetene, of the Legal Assistance Centre.

“Namibia has an extremely high HIV prevalence, fuelled by stigma against people living with HIV. Women, who are already highly vulnerable to HIV infection are at particular risk of human rights violations such as sterilisation without their consent due to their HIV status,” adds Rosa Namises of Women’s Solidarity Namibia.

A pilot survey and documentation project conducted by the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) and Namibia Women’s Health Network found that the right to informed consent was violated in all cases of sterilisation of women living with HIV reported to them. “Preliminary findings also indicated that the initial documented cases appear to be merely the tip of the iceberg,” states Veronica Kalambi of Namibia Women’s Health Network.

The impact of sterilisation without informed consent can be devastating, affecting a woman’s mental and physical health and her relationship with her partner, her family, and society at large. “For many women pregnancy and childbirth is central to self-esteem and personal satisfaction. In a patriarchal society such as our own, a woman’s value is often determined by her ability to bear children,” explains Rosa Namises.

Sterilisation of women living with HIV without their consent also has serious implications for the health care system as a whole. “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,” explains Amon Ngavetene.

The campaign partners call on all Namibians and civil society organisations to sign the petition and join the campaign to end involuntary sterilisation of women living with HIV in Namibia.

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.

For further information please contact:

Mark Nonkes
Legal Assistance Centre of Namibia
Tel.: + 264 (61)223356
e-mail: mnonkes@lac.org.na

Gillian Parenzee
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Tel.: + 264 (61) 300381
e-mail: gillian@arasa.info

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