XIX International AIDS Conference

THGS03 Seeking Justice: Litigating the Forced Sterilization of Women Living with HIV
  Panel Discussion
Venue: GV Session Room 1
Time: 26.07.2012, 13:00 - 14:00
Chair: Lilian Sepúlveda, United States
Violations of the reproductive rights of women living with HIV are widespread, often as a result of entrenched stigma and discrimination around HIV and motherhood. The involuntary sterilization of a woman because of her HIV-positive status-one pernicious manifestation of this stigma-causes lasting harm, violates a number of her fundamental human rights and has become an increasingly global phenomenon. Women's rights organizations are using strategic litigation to put an end to these violations and to hold states accountable for their international human rights obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all individuals, irrespective of their serological status. This panel will provide an overview of how domestic and international litigation is being used to strengthen protections for the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV, as well as a discussion about how strategic litigation can complement other human rights advocacy strategies to advance these rights.


E. Crone, United States

Addressing systematic forced sterilization through domestic litigation in Namibia

P. Patel, South Africa

F.S. v. Chile:using international litigation to strengthen human rights protections

L. Sepúlveda, United States

Moderated discussion

Closing remarks

Rapporteur report

Track D report by Felicita Hikuam

Numerous reports of women living with HIV being unconstitutionally sterilised without informed consent when they seek SRHR services at public health facilities have surfaced in southern Africa, Latin America and other regions of the world.

Ignorance of HIV facts and moral convictions, which cause the pervasive stigma in the health care setting, the unequal status of women in societies and the absence of clear protective laws and policies contribute to the coerced sterilisation of positive women. Self stigma and lack of lack of rights literacy contributed to the initial lack of reporting when these rights violations occur.

Strategic litigation has been used as an effective tool to highlight the issues and help affected women in Namibia and Chile seek redress. The litigation also aims to set a legal precedent for dealing with cases of HIV-related discrimination in the health care setting.

Although an expensive and lengthy effort, the approach has galvanised community and mass mobilisation efforts, which have fostered a social movement to fight for women’s human, sexual and reproductive health rights. Where national justice systems have failed to yield results as in Chile, organisations have pursued the cases in regional human rights mechanisms.

Because litigation is viewed as antagonistic, other avenues for redress were sought before proceeding with the litigation. The slow pace of the justice system and the lack of commitment from governments to stop the practice and provide compensation are significant challenges.

It was important to manage the expectations of the clients through transparent communication about the broad objectives of the litigation. Strategic litigation should be accompanied by advocacy to ensure there is a social movement to sustain the momentum. Governments, civil society, community, health care professionals and the judiciary should collaborate to ensure this practise does not persist.



    The organizers reserve the right to amend the programme.

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