2020, Journalistic Reporting

Forced Sterilizations Devastate Lives in South Africa


Severe stigma against HIV, in conjunction with discrimination resulting from gender and race, has resulted in a preponderance of forced sterilizations in South Africa. A new report from the South African Government’s Commission for Gender Equality, released on February 25, 2020, documents 48 instances of the forced sterilization of black HIV-positive women. These women were often pressured into signing consent forms, as physicians often threatened to withhold treatment if they failed to agree. Furthermore, the paperwork was frequently presented while the women were in severe pain and/or already en route to the operating room for a separate procedure. Many other women were not even informed that the operation had taken place and learned of their infertility years later. While these practices are allegedly intended to halt the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children, forced sterilizations further the marginalization that these patients already face as a result of stigmas associated with HIV, womanhood, and race. Furthermore, as a violation of informed consent, forced sterilization contradicts international norms concerning human rights and medical ethics, as well as South Africa’s own laws regarding autonomy, consent, and sterilization. This article aims to highlight the plight of HIV-positive women in South Africa and the severe violation of ethical principles posed by forced sterilization. This article was originally published online by The Caravel on March 4, 2020.


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