forced sterilization

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More sterilizations of HIV-positive women uncovered

"A lot of women didn't know it was wrong that they'd been sterilized."

JOHANNESBURG, 30 August 2010 (PlusNews) - Veronica* did not realize she had been sterilized while giving birth to her daughter until four years later when, after failing to conceive, she and her boyfriend consulted a doctor.

"I was like 'Okay, fine', because there was nothing I could do by then, but I was angry. I hate [those nurses]," she told IRIN/PlusNews. Veronica tested HIV-positive during a routine antenatal visit and was given a form to sign by nurses at the hospital where she went to deliver.

"I didn't know what it was all about, but I did sign," said Veronica, who was 18 at the time and had been scolded by the nurses for being unmarried.

She vaguely recalls being unconsciousness and then coming to and giving birth to her daughter, but did not ask questions about the cut on her abdomen. "My aunt - she's a nurse - went there and asked them what the cut was all about. They didn't answer her; they said it was private and confidential."

Veronica, who is now 28 and working for an HIV/AIDS home-based care programme in Orange Farm, an impoverished township south of Johannesburg, is among a growing number of women in South Africa and other countries in the region who have come forward in the last few years with similar stories of forced or coerced sterilization after an HIV-positive test result.

Local rights groups in Namibia, with the support of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, have helped uncover 15 such cases, and a trial involving three HV-positive women who say they were sterilized at public health facilities without their consent is due to resume on 1 September in the High Court.

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Are Namibian Women Being Forcibly Sterilised?*

By Servaas van den Bosch

REHOBOTH, Namibia, Jun 1, 2010 (IPS)- A landmark court case, alleging that HIV-positive women were forcibly sterilised in Namibian state hospitals begins in Windhoek's High Court on Jun. 1. Human rights groups claim the practice has continued long after the authorities were notified.

The Windhoek-based Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) is litigating 15 alleged cases of forced sterilisation. Three women's cases will be heard initially. Each woman is demanding the equivalent of 132,000 U.S dollars in damages.

The sterilisations were first uncovered by the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW).

"The first cases emerged during community meetings in early 2008. In the months that followed we interviewed 230 women, 40 of whom were sterilised against their will," says the ICW's Veronica Kalambi.

"In August 2008 we formally alerted the ministry during a meeting with the deputy Minister."

Although the State will argue that consent forms were signed in all three cases, the women’s lawyers maintain the process necessary for "informed consent" was not followed and the women were coerced, or did not understand the procedure.

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