Namibian Supreme Court rules women were sterilised without consent

07 November 2014

Namibian women have won their case against the government, holding public hospitals responsible for the sterilisation of women living with HIV without their informed consent. The case was brought to court by three women who where sterilised without consent by doctors in public hospitals after giving birth. The Supreme Court ruled that the practice of the hospitals violated the legal rights of the women.

The three women were forced into having the sterilisation procedure after labour, without being given a chance to recover and make a well considered and informed decision. The court argued that these women could not have had a full and comprehensive understanding of the procedure and the consequences of sterilisation, and it was therefore regarded that no informed consent was given.

The Namibian Women’s Health Network (NWHN) started to collect reports of forced sterilisation of women living with HIV by health care professionals in 2007. Over the seven years dozens of cases were reported, not only from women in Namibia but also from other African countries. This court order is momentous not only for women living with HIV in Namibia, but also in other African countries, and calls on governments to take strong action to end this practice.

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