Monday was a big day for women’s health and reproductive rights in Namibia. The Supreme Court issued their judgment on the Government of the Republic of Namibia vs. LM and Others, an appeal that had come from the government in response to the High Court’s ruling that three HIV-positive women had been involuntarily sterilized. In short, the Supreme Court dismissed a government appeal to not be held accountable for paying damages for the involuntary sterilization of three women at the Oshakati and Katutura State hospitals. The case will be returned to the High Courts where compensation for the three women will be determined.
This case has been going on since 2008 and has been a long battle. In 2007, there were found to be over 40 cases of women being sterilized without their informed consent in government hospitals and clinics.
I, Chelsea, the international resident assistant, have been working with Namibian Women’s Health Network (NWHN), a community-based organization founded to empower those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Namibia. Monday morning, I quickly headed to the office in order to meet up with the rest of the NWHN staff to head to Zoo Park. At the park, all of the supporters gathered together to walk to the Supreme Court as a united front. I can honestly say it was such a privilege to be surrounded by such powerful and strong women (and a few men) and to know that I was about to witness something incredibly amazing. Upon arriving at the Court, we were directed to the court room where the ruling would be announced. There was a buzz of excitement and trepidation in the air as we were all waiting for the result. One by one the judges walked in and we all stood up knowing that we were just moments away from a monumental decision. Upon hearing that the appeal had been dismissed, there was an air of relief and celebration that immediately took over the crowd. As we all headed outside, dancing and singing took over as a long journey finally came to a close. I was so honored to get to be a part of such an occasion. It was truly a moving moment when justice was finally achieved. While the issue of forced sterilization is far from over, it was truly a giant step forward for women living with HIV/AIDS not only in Namibia, but around the world. This court case is expected to have far reaching effects considering that Namibia is the first country to successfully take the government to court and get a favorable ruling in regards to ending the practice of coercive sterilization.
To read more about the ruling, please check out the following articles:
- ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/court-namibia-forcibly-sterilized-women-hiv-26650518
- Southern Africa Litigation Centre: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2014/11/03/news-release-namibias-highest-court-finds-government-forcibly-sterilised-hiv-positive-women/
- The Namibian: http://www.namibian.com.na/indexx.php?id=19740&page;_type=story_detail&category;_id=1#
- To learn more about the Namibian Women’s Health Network, check out their facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Namibian-Womens-Health-Network/109958059086329?ref=ts&fref;=ts