Civil society organisations in Namibia have called for the re-formation of the country’s public health system in support of the women who were allegedly sterilised without their consent
According to the coordinator of the AIDS Law Unit of the LAC, Amon Ngavetene, the women who are seeking redress after allegedly being sterilised without their consent, are not seeking compensation but the re-formation of the country’s health system.
He said several rights of the women have been violated, some of which include the right to reproduction and dignity.
Ngavetene called on the re-formation of the public health system that includes the training of medical staff on the rights of patients.
The first reports of the alleged forced sterilisation at state hospitals surfaced in 2007 and since February 2008, 15 individual cases have been documented. This, according to several civil society organisations, is only the tip of the ice-berg.
Speaking during the march this week, Rosa Namises, director of Women’s Solidarity Namibia, asked government to send a clear message that it will not tolerate the violation of women’s rights.
“We call on government to send a clear message that it will not tolerate the violation of any women’s fundamental right to make free and informed decisions about her own body and health, particularly with regard to reproductive choices, and further that it is actively pursuing initiatives to end the discrimination against people living with HIV. We hope this will mark an end to this flagrant violation of HIV-positive women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Namibia,” said Namises, before handing over a petition to the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
She said in order to ensure that this does not happen again, government must immediately issue a circular to both public and private health facilities explicitly prohibiting them from sterilising patients without their consent.
Namises further asked the government to review and update current reproductive health policies and guidelines, to ensure that all health care workers receive adequate training about the need for patients to receive quality and non-discriminatory medical care, regardless of their HIV status, as well as conduct a public awareness campaign on the issue.
“We ask that the Namibian government conduct a public enquiry on the issue of sterilisation without informed consent and ensure that women who have been sterilised receive just and fair compensation for their loss, including option of sterilisation reversal.”
The case of three HIV positive women who claim that they also have been sterilised and are seeking compensation from government, ended in court today (Friday, 4 June).
One of the women testified that she was asked to sign several forms on the day she was sterilised and only after the procedure.
She said the nurses did not explain to her what the forms were for and she was also experiencing too much pain, to pay any mind.
In support of the women, several activities such as hospital sit – ins were organised. The sit-ins started on last Wednesday and ended Friday.
A petition signed by more than 1000 people was also handed over to the Ministry of Health last week.