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Kenyan Women Seek Justice for Forced Sterilization

Over 40 HIV-postive women who were allegedly sterilized against their will go to court to demand justice and possible compensation.

The chairperson of the National Gender and Equality Commission Winfred Lichuma who is championing the women’s cause described what happened to the women as “atrocious an infringement of their human rights and contrary to medical ethics.”

“Those responsible should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Lichuma said during the launch of a report on coerced sterilization of HIV women by medical personnel. The study was conducted this year in Kakamega and Nairobi.

According to the report, most of the forced sterelisations -75 per cent- were conducted in public hospitals while the rest were carried out in private hospitals. Majority of the women are from low income cadres of society. Most of them claim they were not aware and did not understand what they were being asked to sign as they were in active and difficult labour at the time. Some of the women were also unconscious and could therefore not give consent or are illiterate and were asked to sign a document which turned out to be an authorization for the procedures.

In some instances, some of the women especially those whose operations were done in the public hospitals, were told that the procedure was government mandated for all HIV-positive women. According to the report-Robbed of Choice: Forced and Coerced Sterilization Experiences of Women Living with HIV in Kenya- some of the women were also told threatened with having their supply of anti-retroviral drugs stopped if they did not agree to the operation.

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