Namibian Women Sue Over Forced Sterilization

Three women in Namibia are suing the state for sterilizing them without their consent after being diagnosed as being HIV-positive.

The Legal Assistance Center, a human rights group which is representing them, claims that since 2008, it has recorded 15 cases of forced sterilization. Amon Ngavetene of LAC explained that besides the fact that women are not informed of the procedure and its health risks, there is often a language barrier since 11 different languages are spoken in Namibia.

A march took place in the capital of Windhoekon, and on June 2 the women staged a sit-in in front of the two hospitals responsible for the sterilizations. Marches in solidarity are also being planned in South Africa, Zambia, the UK and the US.

Sadly, this case is not unique. A year ago Rwanda came under fire for allegedly drafting plans to sterilize the mentally disabled. In rural Peru, hundreds of thousands of indigenous women were targeted as part of former President Fujimori’s family planning initiative. In 2002, after Fujimori had left office, over 200,000 women were pressured into sterilization after being told misleading information and threatened with fines. Cases have also been documented in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and South Africa, where a fourteen year old girl was told she could have an abortion only if she was sterilized afterwards.

Last year the International Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids (ICW) accused the Namibian government of coercing women to be sterilized. Coordinator Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet explains that besides being an assault on women’s reproductive rights, forced sterilization also negatively affects a woman’s role in society. “In African culture, if you are not able to have children, you are ostracized. It’s worse than having HIV.”

Unsurprisingly, the hospitals are denying the Namibian women’s allegations, who are asking for 1 million Namibian dollars (approximately $132,000) in compensation.

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57 comments

Vanessa S.
Vanessa S.6 years ago

These women should be educated, encouraged, and supported in the area of planned pregnancy, as well as given the tools needed, such as birth control and condoms. They should also be given the opportunity to educate others in their community on preventing STDs and Planned pregnancy, and possibly compensated for it. This would be beneficial in many areas, while still keeping the womens' rights intact.

Fiona Leishman
Fiona Leishman6 years ago

i wonder how many of those who have voiced their pretty strong views have actually been to Namibia! NO it is not right for anyone to be sterlised without consent, female or male. Yes there is a big Aids proble; education is the key factor in keeping numbers low not forced action against will or without prior consent. Any yes women do have a lot of children, that's because a lot of them don't make it after the age of 5! so they have more to compensate - it has been going on for eons, it's called survival.

Carole Tokaruk
Carole Tokaruk6 years ago

Of course this cruel and horrible but so is abortion. Women haven't got the right just to whatever is their passing fancy. Abortion..Yes...Sterilization....No. It doesn't work that way. What is wrong is wrong because God has said so. Ah yes, religion again but look around you at nature...who created our world anyways?

Urszula J.
Urszula J.6 years ago

That is a cruel and horrible.

April Thompson
April Thompson6 years ago

Horrible!

alicia m.
alicia m.6 years ago

We are talking about Namibia and we are talking of ill women and we are talking about HIV... that could be detected AFTER pregnancy . Have you thought about that? I have found some comments totally inhumane (and from women!!!!!!!!) I strongly disagree, I do not think these women are selfish, in fact I think their way of life and circunstance must be very different and tough. They do not need being more criticized or unuseful advices, they need support. How easy is to tell the rest of people what is right to do and how difficult help them (ie,sign a petition)

Anna Ruiz
Anna Ruiz6 years ago

Some things in life, no matter how basic or customary, are priviledges. With rights, come RESPONSIBILITY. Just saying . . .

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik6 years ago

"If a woman can have a hysterectomy to save her life when she's otherwise healthy, she usually agrees it's the better choice for her. So why would a woman facing a grueling death not understand that 100% guaranteed birth control is not a wise and sane decision?"
The thing is that sterilization DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO PREVENT HIV/AIDS. It is not spread by having babies it IS spread through sexual contact.
I will agree that these women are selfish for having these babies. I will agree that it is unfair for them to have baby after baby that may have to grow up without a mother. BUT the fact is that they are NOT going to be abstinent. They may not even become pregnant - the drugs having made them sterile - but they are STILL having sex & spreading HIV. Education, contraceptives in the way of condoms - these are what will stop the spread of HIV/AIDS not just sterilizing women.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.6 years ago

Let's castrate the men who have HIV instead and see how long the law lasts---a week maybe.

Instead of forcing the women to be sterilized, the government should pay them a substantial sum if they will consent to not having more children. Plus, sterilization, I doubt if it would suffice to prevent the spread of AIDS if that is their goal since they can still have sex. All it does is prevent them from having babies that may or may not develop AIDS.

Tatiana T.
M B.6 years ago

Lois,
You made a good point that it isn't a woman's right to bring a child into the world that they can't take care of. It's called being selfish and irresponsible!