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Windhoek, Namibia - Three HIV positive women in Namibia have been coercively sterilised in violation of their basic rights, the High Court in Windhoek found on Monday.
The SA Litigation Centre (SALC) said the court ruled that obtaining consent from women when they were in severe pain or in labour did not constitute informed consent.
The court further found that failure to obtain the three women's informed consent violated their rights under common law.
The lawsuit was filed in 2010 and the women would be awarded damages, although the amount was still to be decided.
“This decision is a significant victory for HIV positive women in Namibia,” said Nicole Fritz, executive director of SALC.
“This ruling affirms not only the rights of HIV positive women but also of all women to access their sexual and reproductive rights,” she said.
SALC said the HIV positive women sought to access pre-natal services at public hospitals in Namibia.
“These three cases represent only the tip of the iceberg... HIV positive women have come forward alleging they were similarly subjected to coerced sterilisation at public hospitals in Namibia,” said Fritz.
SALC said dozens of similar cases had been documented throughout Namibia but little action had been taken.
SALC deputy director Priti Patel said the court's decision was the first step in ensuring that no other woman would be coercively sterilised in Namibia.
“Now the government must meaningfully investigate all the other cases to ensure justice for every woman who has been coercively sterilised,” she said.
UNAIDS estimates there are 180 000 people living with HIV in Namibia, a country of 2.1 million people.
Sterilisation is a drastic tactic to treat HIV positive women, as mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids can be prevented with medication. - Sapa