South Africa: Commission for Gender Equality Welcomes Probe Into Forced Sterilisation of HIV+ Women At State Hospitals

press release

Gender Commission welcomes the probe launched by the NDOH into forced sterilisation of HIV+ Women at state hospitals

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has noted with interest the presentation by Honourable Minister Zwelini Mkhize responsible for the National Department of Health before the Portfolios Committees of Health and Women, Youth and People with Disabilities that the department will launch a probe into forced sterilisation of HIV+ women at state hospitals. The Gender Commission welcomes this development.

On the 24th February 2020, the Gender Commission launched an investigative report on forced sterilisation wherein 48 women alleged that they were forced or coerced to undergo sterilisation after delivering babies in public health facilities in Gauteng and KZN several years ago due to their HIV+ status. Upon the lunch of this report, more women started coming forward from other provinces that they too were allegedly subjected this inhumane and cruel treatment. Judging by complaints received after the launch, it presupposes that the allegations of forced or coerced sterilisation were not limited to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Gender investigated forced or coerced sterilisation due to HIV status as it viewed it as a fundamental human rights violation. The announcement that Dr. Mkhize has set up a task team under University of KwaZulu-Natal associate, Professor in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr Motshedisi Sebitloane, to interrogate the matter is as consequence of the recommendations set out by the investigative report on forced or coerced sterilisation by the Gender Commission.

"We are grateful that our intense engagement with the department and accepting the findings and the recommendations have led to the National Department of Health to undergo this process. We are trusting that there will be no further delays, subsequently subjecting the victims to more trauma and anguish. Hoping that the process will deliver justice to the victims", Said Ms Tamara Mathebula, the Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality.

The Commission for Gender Equality as empowered by the CGE Act 39 of 1996, as amended, will monitor this process as part of its mandate. We are also calling upon the victims of forced or coerced sterilisation to co-operate with the task team. Victims can also liaise with all our nine provincial offices in case they want to lodge complaints particularly those who felt their voices were not heard.

The Gender Commission requires progress updates from the National Department of Health on its recommendations.

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