Human Rights

Human Rights of Women Living with HIV. NWHN advocates for the human rights of WLHIV. Since 2008, NWHN has documented the stories of WLHIV who were sterilized against their will in Namibia’s public hospitals, and over the past two years has created partnerships with local and regional NGOs (including LAC and ARASA) to assist in litigation of the forced/coerced sterilization violations. In 2008 NWHN presented its findings on this issue at the Mexico 2008 AIDS Conference, and NWHN’s Director is presenting the most updated findings at the Vienna 2010 AIDS Conference. NWHN also established two health ethics committees to monitor the care in two clinics in Katutura, and continues to educate women about their human rights and documents other violations that occur within this population.

Court cases

Six women appeared in the high court after sueing government for alleged sterilization without their consent.The court case started from the 1st to the 3rd june 2010.During the hearing on the 1st of june a 32 year old woman told the court how she was sterilized in one of the state hospitals in Namibia.

The open address of the case was done by the lawyer of the Six women Dave Smuts who are allegedly sterilized by some health practitioners in some state hospitals in Namibia. The victims claim that they were sterilized without their consent. The defendants claimed that they were not explained to what was going to happen to them.

The lawyer representing the six women opened the case by stating that according to the Namibian constitution every person has a right to find a family which includes having children and therefore they were suing the government under claims that they were not properly informed about the operation to be undertaken. And also that according to the constitution (article 8 .2.b) it is stated that in any judiciary proceedings or in other proceedings before any organ of the state and during the enforcement of a penalty, respect for human dignity shall be guaranteed. It is under these claims that the defendants are suing the government.

The lawyer further stated that the victims have the right to respect their decisions, consent even if it may be in the best of their interest. There was no careful counseling prior to the operation. He also noted that according to the health policy it is stated that the decision should be made by women before the operation and they were required to sign a form where in each case the defendants were given while in labor. And they believe that this was done because of their HIV status. He further stated that HIV/AIDS patients can live normal lives and living a normal life includes having children. He also said that the evidence is there because they have been examined. The government should compensate them according to the constitution

A 32 year old woman described how she was sterilized in a state hospital in Namibia. She explained that on the 9th June 2005 she went to a clinic and while sitting in the waiting room she discharged some blood from her private parts and was later transferred to Oshakati main hospital where she was admitted. The woman explained to the court that on the 13th June 2005 she had severe labor pains and a doctor came to examine her between 11hrs and 12hrs. “He examined me and told me that I can’t deliver because am tied”, the woman said. She went on to say that, “the doctor instructed the nurse to take me to the theater for caesarian section.”I was in pain and I needed to be helped and before I went to the theater I was in a delivery room where a nurse came and told me that the doctor said that all HIV patients’uteruses’should be removed, she then gave me a document to sign which I really didn’t know what I was signing for, whether it was for the operation or to remove the uterus.

The court cases have been postponed from the 1st September to the 10th September, 2010.

Community Response

Namibia Women Health Network interviewed some of the people who came to the court and this is what they had to say.

The people spoken to expressed their grievances and concern as they said that sterilization is not right because everyone has a right to decide if they don’t want or not to have children.

According to one woman in her forties, a leader of a support group whose member is one of the Victims. She expressed her concern in an angered voice and stated that “I feel very bad because sterilization of these women is discrimination and stigma against them because they are HIV positive. And she also said that, “to be positive doest mean to stop having children”.

A man interviewed in these thirties said that, “I feel very bad because they are going against women’s rights. What they did to them is wrong because they are young and still needed to have more children. The doctors and nurses who did this to them need to be suspended for two years without pay and the government should compensate them for this damage caused.

Another woman spoken to in her thirties said, “I feel very hurt because this is going against someone’ rights

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