Friday, March 20, 2015

Blog #5: 'Forced' Sterilization of HIV Women Violates Rights

Three women's advocacy groups, including Her Rights Initiative (HRI) and the Women's Legal Centre (WLC) have filed formal complaints with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), stating that the ongoing forced/coerced sterilization of women living in South Africa with HIV is a violation of human rights and state policy.  The complaint is based on forty-eight documented cases of HIV-positive women, who were sterilized without giving consent, or were forced into giving consent, occurring in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal between 1986 and 2014. It has been reported that many women are coerced into giving their consent for sterilization while in labor.  This usually happens because the doctor will refuse to proceed in helping the mother deliver unless she grants consent to be sterilized. According to the Sterilization Act implemented in Africa, healthcare providers must explain to patients the processes, risks and benefits of the procedure before the consent form can be signed; because none of this is occurring the consent forms are not at all legal, contrary to popular belief.  The largest problem is that forced and coerced sterilizations are taking place despite the fact that there are antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV throughout pregnancy, the birthing process and while breastfeeding.  When asked, people say this push for the sterilization of these women comes from the motive of there being no one to take care of their babies once the mother is dead.  However, once these mothers are on treatment, and if they adhere to their treatments as prescribed, their lives will be just as long as anyone else's.

Personally, I think this form of treatment is unethical.  From a standpoint on modern healthcare, it is not fair, much less ethical that the HIV infected women are being forced/coerced into sterilization, when women who are not infected would not be given the same consent forms, unless requested.  The unethical factors that play into this scenario are that patients are being treated with a different standard of care based on their medical conditions.  They're being provided with a procedure that may change their lives in many ways.  From research done in my nursing class, African women are not seen as adults until they have given birth.  If they are deprived of this ability, then they lose their place in society.  These women most likely lose their husbands, because they can no longer supply him with children, and they lose a sense of self due to the loss of their womanliness and changes in hormones due to the procedure.  With all of the impediments this procedure leaves on a woman, it is a decision that should be made after much consideration and only after being thoroughly informed; it is not a situation that one should ever have to be forced or coerced into, just because others are uncomfortable with your state of health.

Megan Wrench

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