Source: Stop Torture in Health Care

Dear Minister: 

I write to express my concern at the coerced and forced sterilisation of HIV positive women in public hospitals throughout Namibia. I further ask you to categorically condemn the practice and make clear to all healthcare professionals that such conduct will result in appropriate disciplinary action. 

Reports of the coerced and forced sterilisation of HIV positive women in Namibia surfaced publicly as early as 2007. To date, dozens of HIV positive women from throughout Namibia have recounted their own experiences of being subjected to coerced and forced sterilisation. In all of the reported cases, informed consent was not properly obtained for one or more of the following reasons: consent was obtained under duress; failure to inform patient of the contents of the consent form; and a failure to provide full and accurate information regarding sterilisation procedure. 

Subjecting HIV positive women to coerced and forced sterilisation undermines Namibia’s efforts to effectively respond to the HIV pandemic by increasing stigma and discrimination already facing HIV positive women. Such practices discourage HIV positive women from seeking healthcare services when it is critically needed. 

Furthermore, the practice is contrary to Namibia’s domestic, regional and international legal obligations. These include the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; the right to liberty and security of person; the right to health and family planning; the right to privacy; and the right to equality and to be free from discrimination. These legal obligations are reinforced by medical guidelines issued by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), which specifically require information regarding the nature of the procedure, its consequences and risks, alternative options for family planning and its irreversible nature be provided prior to obtaining consent. 

The coerced and forced sterilisation of HIV positive women has been going on for too long and I ask that you provide the necessary leadership to end this practice. 



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