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Namibian High Court Rules HIV-Positive Women Were Improperly Counseled Before Sterilization Procedures, but Not Based on HIV Status

July 31, 2012

"The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized while they gave birth, but the judge dismissed claims that the sterilization amounted to discrimination based on their HIV status," PlusNews reports (7/30). "The court ruled the three were sterilized without being adequately informed," Reuters notes. "There should be unhurried counseling in a language that is clearly understood by the patient," Windhoek High Court Judge Elton Hoff said, adding, "I am not convinced that informed consent was given," the news service reports (7/30).

"While admitting that health workers in Namibian state hospitals face tremendous pressures, the judge called on the government to institute group counseling about contraception and to make information available in all languages necessary," the Guardian writes (Smith, 7/30). According to the Associated Press, "The Southern Africa Litigation Centre [SALC] said Monday that the Namibia High Court ruling will see monetary damages awarded to the three women affected" (7/30). Priti Patel, deputy director and HIV program manager at SALC, "noted that the judgment would have an impact beyond Namibia," PlusNews writes, adding, "She said there were anecdotal reports of similar practices in Swaziland, and documented cases in South Africa, in which SALC was involved" (7/30).

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