Court case resumes!

The case has resumed in the Namibian High Court and will continue until January 26th. You can find a detailed account of the first day’s proceedings here.


TAKE ACTION : Send a letter to Namibia’s Health Minister

Scores of HIV positive women in Namibia were forcibly sterilized. A number of them have stepped forward in to sue the government for violating their fundamental rights. The hearings have sparked mass mobilizations and public demonstrations by HIV and human rights activists. Despite this, the Namibian Government has thus far refused to take the steps needed to end this practice. You can send a message to the Namibia’s Health Minister demanding that the government stop sterilizing HIV-positive women without their consent.

Send a letter to Namibia’s Health Minister demanding an end to the forced and coerced sterilization of women living with HIV.

Video Footage from the Petition Handover

Case to Continue 01 September

After three days of riveting testimony from two of the three women, the case was ordered to continue from 01 to 10 September.

Originally, the Namibian High Court set down cases for 4 days of trial. However, it became obvious the case would take more time to hear than the original 4 days.

Since the judge had a conflict for Friday the case ran for 3 days, 01-13 June.

The parties and the judge then had to come up with additional trial dates that suited all parties. They agreed on 1-10 September as both sides agreed that they would need about 7 additional days to complete the trial.

Please contact Mark Nonkes of the Legal Assistance Centre for more information.

Live from the Court Room. Day 3

Natasha Bassingthwaighte, Dave Smuts and Linda Dumba-Chicalu are on the legal team representing the women.

Windhoek High Court.
03 June 2010

11h57 – There are more supporters in the room today than on any other day. The defense is currently cross-examining the second plaintiff.

12h030 – The defense is asking the plaintiff questions about her health passport. The plaintiff reports that on her visits to antenatal clinic she was not told about sterilisation.

12h47 – The defense argues that the passport indicates family planning information was given, but plaintiff argues this did not include sterilisation. Plaintiff claims: On Dec 6 she spoke to a doctor who told her that since her last baby was delivered by C-section and because the baby was in a bridge position she would be having a… C-section, and that because she was HIV positive she would also be sterilised. Plaintiff reports the doctor did not tell her that she would not be able to have children after the surgery. She reports that the doctor told her if she wanted to be booked for the C-section she must agree to be sterilised.

“I had to agree because the doctor told me if I did not he would not book me for the C-section.”

12h54 – The plaintiff said that at Katutura State Hospital patients do not have the right to question doctors or nurses. The judge asked the plaintiff why is this the case at Katutura Hospital and she reported, “If you dare ask nurse or doctor they shout at you amongst the people… You will be ashamed because they will be shouting at you amongst other patients.”

14h30 – The defense asked the plaintiff how the doctor was forceful with her. She replied, “Even if the person is not shouting, you understand when they are speaking in a rude manner.” Defense asked, “If someone is speaking in rude manner, you will just back down?” Plaintiff responded that she will not allow someone to be rude…

14h40 – Defense asked if the plaintiff told anyone that the doctor wanted to sterilise her, or if she asked to see a different doctor. She reported that she did not. “In public hospital a patient has no rights to ask for another doctor.”

16h00 – Second plaintiff steps leaves the witness box. The lawyers ask for more time for the case to be heard. The case is postponed until 01 September 2010-10 September 2010.

Cases, Solidarity Action Grabbing International Attention

Namibia HIV women sue over forced sterilisation
BBC – 01 June 2010
Three women in Namibia are suing the state for allegedly being sterilised without their informed consent after being diagnosed as HIV positive.

3 Namibian women with HIV say they were sterilized
The Associated Press – 02 June 2010
Supporters of three HIV-positive women in Namibia who say they were sterilized without their consent held protests to support the women’s decision to sue the government, a legal aid group said Wednesday.

Forced Sterilisation trial Begins in Namibia
RFI – 01 June 2010
Three landmark trials have begun in the Namibian capital Windhoek after a group of women said they were sterilised by the state without their consent.The women went in for Hiv tests in two public hospitals and, after testing positive, they were allegedly sterilised without their full and informed consent.

Sterilisation Causes Woman to Live in Shame

Report from the Sterilisation Court Case
Day 2 – 02 June 2010

As the sterilisation case continued in the High Court of Namibia today, one of the women suing the government for the alleged forced sterilisation said she now lives in shame as she cannot have children anymore.

The woman told the packed court room that people in her culture who cannot bare children while married feel bad and face extensive family pressure to have children with their husband.

“Because of the sterilisation I will have problems with my in-laws,” the woman told the court. “People will be waiting for me to have a child because I’m married…Most of my family members I did not tell them I was HIV positive. It will be difficult to tell my family that I am sterilised when I have not told them I’m HIV positive.”

The woman, whose identity is being protected through a court order, currently has three children. However, after her third child, she says the doctor sterilised her without her consent after she gave birth through a C-section.

“Did anyone discuss the sterilisation with you after the sterilisation was performed while you were still in the hospital?” asked defense counsel Dave Smuts.

“No.” the woman replied.

The woman then told the court that she only became aware that she was sterilised 6 weeks after she went for a follow-up to obtain family planning contraceptives.

“It was then the nurse informed me I would not need contraceptives because I was sterilised. It was the first time I came to learn I was sterilised,” the woman said.

The woman did admit she signed forms that consented to the doctor’s operation. However, the woman stated that the forms were not explained to her. The court also saw evidence that shows the doctor’s signature was not present on the forms of consent.

The case continues tomorrow with cross examination of the woman.

article contributed by Mark Nonkes, communication officer, Legal Assistance Centre & Lone Phineas, media studies student, University of Namibia