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August 24, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

SABC: Abused health rights of women in Kenya

Thursday 23 August 2012 14:24

SABC

Kenyan women who have been tested positive for HIV have had tubal ligation performed without their knowledge or consent

In a case similar to what happened in Namibia where three women were violated in terms of their health rights wherein they were forced into sterilization, more than 35 women in Kenya are considering taking legal action against hospitals, their husbands as well as the government after they were forcefully sterilised. 

It is alleged that they were sterilised through coercion, and sometimes even without their knowledge, solely because they were HIV positive. Some of the victims say that the health facilities would only give them food for their babies on condition that they agreed to be sterilised. 

Such cases have rapidly become a frequent occurrence as the plight of numerous local women in Kenya’s Kibera slums claim that they were forced or coerced into sterilisation. The issue has subconscious touches of the campaign that was held in Istanbul, late April this year, which protested the degradation in their health system which had forced them to be sterilised. 

Similarly, doctors at a public hospital in Eastern Kenya had performed a tubal ligation on a woman who had fallen pregnant in 1993. She had no knowledge of this fact and was not informed of the procedure nor was she given any documentation that required her consent. 

The Kenyan constitution provides for reproductive health rights, including for those who live with HIV

The 39 year old woman had given birth by caesarian on recommendation of her doctor due to having tested her positive for HIV. As in most of these cases, the baby died days later. It is during the afterbirth procedures that are mandatory when caesarians take place that the doctors perform the tubal ligations without consent of the women.

The Kenyan constitution provides for reproductive health rights, including for those who live with HIV. However, some of the women claim that the sterilisation happened in public facilities. Faith Kasiva of the Gender and Media Initiative has called upon the government to clarify its policy.

One of the private clinics, Marie Stopes International, was mentioned adversely by the women but had refused to comment on camera. Instead, they issued a release stating that investigations were underway to determine if the women’s allegations are true. 

According to Kasiva, the women have made it clear that they want compensation and those whose cases can be reversed wish to have the procedure done. Six of these women are currently opting to seek justice by going to court to sue the Kenyan government and the relevant hospitals. 

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