Namibia: Women Forcibly Sterilized by State Doctors
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 11:59 AM

The Inter Press Service (IPS) recently reported that a group of twenty women in Namibia claim to have been forcibly sterilized by state doctors. All of the women are poor, have little education, and are HIV-positive. Nineteen of the twenty documented sterilizations occurred in two state hospitals in Windhoek, and one occurred in Oshakati State Hospital. The first reports of cases were in 2003 and the most recent was in December of 2008. The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) in Windhoek is representing the women.


The practice of forced sterilization gained notice in 2008 when the International Community of Women (ICW) in Namibia held a workshop and three participants said they had been forcibly sterilized. The LAC held meetings in low-income Windhoek communities to alert HIV-positive women of this practice. One woman said the doctors told her she needed this operation because she had HIV and too many children, therefore her uterus was “tired.”


An obstetrician and former chair of the Namibian HIV Clinicians Society, Bernhard Haufiku, explained that sterilization is not necessary for women who are HIV-positive: “The risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be minimized through early diagnosis and antiretrovirals.” Haufiku says that the amount of children a woman has given birth to is also irrelevant, and that it is "nonsense" to say that the uterus becomes “tired.” The sterilization can be reversed, but it is very expensive and the success rate is low.


The LAC has begun litigating eight of the cases.


Compiled from: Rights - Namibia: 'Cut, Cut Again and Now Tie Tightly', Inter Press Service News Agency, (23 June 2009).