Strategic litigation of women's right to found a family and non discrimination: the cases of sterilization without informed
consent of HIV positive women in Namibia
Presented by Linda Dumba (Namibia).
Legal Assistance Centre, Windhoek, Namibia
Issue: In February
2008, media reports in Namibia indicated that HIV positive women seeking
assistance with the delivery of their babies were sterilized without their informed
consent at state health facilities. This is an emerging human rights issue, the
extent of which is yet to be discovered.
Description of the intervention: The Legal
Assistance Centre (LAC) in Namibia is litigating against the Namibian
government on behalf of sixteen HIV positive women who were sterilized
without informed consent. This practice clearly
violates the rights to found a family and to equality and
non-discrimination guaranteed under the Namibian
Constitution and existing regional and international human rights agreements.
Lessons learned: To ensure the
women's rights violations are addressed, the LAC decided to invest in
litigation as the primary vehicle to enforce women's rights
Next steps: Six out of the
fifteen cases are scheduled for hearing on the merits from 1 to 4 June 2010 and
15 to 18 June 2010. Litigation as an advocacy tool must be accompanied by other
methods of advocacy for it to bring about any social change. Therefore next steps include making
recommendation on the draft Reproductive Health Policy, lobbying government to reform
the current Sterilization Act, undertaking a research project to document the
extent of the issue in Namibia and conducting legal education workshops to raise
awareness on the outcome of the Court's decision.
- because there is a reasonable chance of
success of implementation of any decision that the Court will make;
- to hold the government accountable and end the
- to compensate the women for the wrongs that
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