This article discusses the forced sterilization of women in Chile and Namibia who are HIV positive. The sterilizations are used to prevent the spread of the disease from mothers who are infected. The author argues that while the use of forced sterilization is portrayed as beneficial to the public’s health, the truth is that there are medications available to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child that are inexpensive and accessible in these countries. However, these tactics are not being utilized. Many women are still passing along the virus through breastfeeding. The author details the physical and emotional hardships women experience after being sterilized, and explains that these are the reasons medical professionals have developed a system in which patients must consent to surgery and have the procedure explained to them before they decide. She argues that forcing women to undergo the surgery either by physical or emotional coercion violates the human rights of the affected women. Nair then explains that two case studies one from Chile and one from Namibia can highlight how to put a stop to forced sterilization. According to a 2004 study in Chile, 42 percent of HIV positive women who were sterilized either had not given consent or were coerced into giving consent. When the study came out the Chilean government proclaimed that they would compensate the women who were sterilized and put new rules into place that would ensure consent was reached before the procedure took place. However, neither of these things has actually taken place. The case study in Chile follows a woman referred only to as F.S. She attempted to sue after she was unknowingly sterilized during a caesarian section. The domestic courts did nothing to help her so with the assistance of a few human rights advocacy groups she is perusing other avenues. They hope to get Chile to admit to wrongdoing and compensate the woman. In Namibia similar cases are being filed on behalf of women who were lied to and coerced into sterilization. The author hopes that this kind of litigation from human rights groups will force the governments of Chile and Namibia to change their laws regarding sterilization.
The author of the essay, Pooja Nair, is a graduate of Harvard law school and wrote the article while she was a student there. Her essay makes a good argument that these countries are being negligent when it comes to enforcing the laws that prevent forced sterilization. The other medical methods that can be used to prevent the passing of HIV from mother to child are not being utilized. Nair makes a powerful argument by explaining how women are forced to consent to sterilization. She says that often medical professionals withhold medical assistance while the mother is in labor until she signs a form giving them permission to sterilize. Other women are lied to and told that there is no other option other than sterilization. Nair points out that forced sterilizations prevent HIV positive women from seeking medical attention. Because women are too frightened to see the doctor they often pass HIV on to their children.
This essay will be used to create a dossier regarding the issue of forced sterilization and the reproductive rights of women in Chile. It is a small part of our research that will be compiled to create a final expose about the conditions that still plague the country today.