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Women still experience forced sterilization at Public Health Institutions- conference reveals.

Khensani Motileni, from the Women’s Legal Centre
Pretoria, 22 March 2023: Black women living with HIV continue to experience forced sterilisation at South African public health institutions. This was revealed at the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Conference held at Diep in Die Berg, in Pretoria, on 22 March, 2023.
Organised by the Department of Social Development, the conference has brought together policy makers, Civil Society Organisations, Researchers, and young people to deepen and promote sexual and reproductive justice.  
Speaking at the conference Ms Khensani Motileni, from the Women’s Legal Centre, revealed that many women, especially, those living in rural communities are discriminated and do not often have equitable access to basic services, such as water, food, and medical treatment.
Quoting from an investigation report by the Commission on Gender Equality, Motileni said some women are being sterilised without being given other alternative prevention or birth control measures before being sterilised.

This she said, was equivalent to forced or coerced sterilisation of women in the public health institutions and has a negative impact on many women living in rural communities, including, those who are pregnant and living with HIV or chronic diseases.  
“The legacy of forced sterilisation is rooted in forms of cultural and institutional power. Government and other role players have failed to provide basic services, there is a lack of accessible and dignified health services.
South Africa does not have a women’s health policy and it cannot make informed and adequate provision for women’s health,” she said.

Motileni said there was also a need for policy development and budget allocation targeted towards women’s health.

“Presently, interventions targeting HIV related issues are designed to change risk behaviour and reduce HIV transmission rather than address violence against women living with HIV, and therefore, a rights-based approach is necessary,” said Motileni.
She added that “Customary practices and habits that entrench women as subordinates in their homes and society, exploit them for the benefit of men, especially, in intimate partner settings, increase women’s vulnerability to contracting HIV,”.
Dr Sthembiso Mthembu, an activist and a forced sterilisation survivor, from KwaZulu-Natal Province, added that the Commission for Gender Equality has not implemented its findings on the investigation they conducted on forced or coerced sterilisation on women living with HIV.

She said forced sterilisation continued in public health facilities unabated and it was systematic.
“In some instances, a doctor would come to assist a pregnant woman, and once he finds that the patient is HIV positive, they would recommend sterilisation.”

She said as people living with HIV, they wanted to have access to health care as human beings first before receiving health care as HIV positive people.

Mthembu further said that she was convinced that forced sterilisation was not an issue of bad doctors but a systematic issue within the health sector.

According to Chief Director, Population and Development in the Department of Social Development, Mr Jacques van Zuydam: “any form of coerced sterilization and any other invasions of bodily autonomy without expressed permission from the client is illegal in South Africa.”

Van Zuydam also urged victims of such practices and anybody who is aware of such practices and attempts to report it to the appropriate authorities without hesitation.

Caleb Tayi
Caleb Tayi
I'm a critical reader and a lover of words. As the ECToday Editor my job is to polish and refine a story or an article, check facts, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.


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