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International News

Namibian Women With HIV Tell Court of Forced Sterilizations

September 10, 2010

Friday is expected to be the final day of testimony in the case of three Namibian women who say they were forcefully sterilized while in labor because they are HIV-positive. Sixteen women are suing the Namibian government for $1.2 million (US $165,000) each for allegedly sterilizing them without their consent.


In August 2008, legal aid groups and a women's AIDS organization presented to the Health Ministry the cases of more than 40 women who have suffered a similar experience. The current case is the first of its kind in Africa.

The incidents occurred at three state hospitals -- two in the capital, Windhoek, and one about 440 miles north in Oshakati, the women claim. In court testimony last week, one of the women said she was given a document to sign, during labor, that would authorize a Caesarian section. "I did not know this was also for sterilization," she told the court, speaking through an interpreter. She discovered she had been sterilized only after she overheard two nurses saying the surgery was conducted because she has HIV.

According to the government, an investigation at state hospitals around the country found that all the women had signed consent forms for the sterilization procedure. "The investigation clearly established that all women who had had a Caesarian section as well as a sterilization had signed the relevant consent forms before the operation was done," Health Minister Richard Kamwi told Parliament ahead of the trial.

Forms signed while a woman was already in labor should not be considered valid, gynecologist Matti Kimberg told the court. Priti Patel, AIDS program manager at the Southern Africa Litigation Center, noted, "The women were not aware of their right to say 'no' to sterilization."

Back to other news for September 2010

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More News on HIV/AIDS in Namibia

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