Report finds 48 HIV-positive women coerced into being sterilized at public hospitals
“You HIV people don’t ask questions when making babies. You must be closed up…Just sign the form.”
This is what one HIV-positive woman was told by a health worker as she was being coerced into agreeing to get sterilized at a public hospital.
These revelations are contained in a report by the Commission for Gender Equality (GCE) released on Monday on forced and coerced sterilization in public hospitals.
The investigation arose from complaints by Her Rights Initiative and the International Community of Women Living with HIV to the commission.
A total of 48 HIV-positive women fell victim to coerced and forced sterilization in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng public hospitals. Five hospitals were implicated in Gauteng, while KwaZulu-Natal had 10 health facilities implicated.
During its investigation, the commission requested information from the respondents; held meetings with the affected departments and also visited the implicated hospitals.
Affidavits were also taken from the women who detailed how their rights were violated in public hospitals.
CGE chairperson Tamara Mathebula said the practices by the implicated hospitals were outlawed both by international protocols and local legislation.
Mathebula said in one case, a women went to Nkandla Hospital in 2011.
“The nurses told her that she is getting sterilized because she had many children. She was also told that if she does not get sterilized she would die. She was then coerced to signing the consent form,” said Mathebula.
In another case, also in KwaZulu-Natal, a woman went to Kwamagwaza Hospital where a doctor examined her. The doctor diagnosed the woman to have tuberculosis and told her she had to be sterilized because “the TB would infect the child”.
Some of the women told the commission they were asked to sign sterilization consent forms while in extreme labour pains.
“This is unacceptable, it is too much…Women living with HIV were exposed to coerced sterilization in public health facilities,” Mathebula said.
Mathebula said many of these complainants are now suffering from depression as they can no longer have children. Many have also lost their partners as they cannot conceive.
She said the women’s rights were grossly violated because the sterilization procedure could not be reversed.
CGE will submit the report to the department of health for further investigations and action to be taken.