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Black women living with HIV continue to experience forced sterilisation at South African public health institutions, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Conference heard at Diep in Die Berg, in Pretoria, on Wednesday 22 March 2023.
Organised by the Department of Social Development, the conference brought together policymakers, Civil Society Organisations, Researchers, and young people to deepen and promote sexual and reproductive justice.
Presenting on the topic: Addressing the Legacy of Forced/Coerced Sterilisation of HIV-positive Women in Public Health Care Institutions in South Africa, Khensani Motileni, from the Women’s Legal Centre, outlined that many women, especially, those living in rural communities are discriminated and do not often have equitable access to basic services, such as water, food, and medical treatment.
Quoting from an investigation report by the Commission on Gender Equality, Motileni said some women are being sterilised without being given other alternative prevention or birth control measures before being sterilised.
“The legacy of forced sterilisation is rooted in forms of cultural and institutional power. The government and other role players have failed to provide basic services, there is a lack of accessible and dignified health services. South Africa does not have a women’s health policy and it cannot make informed and adequate provision for women’s health”.
Motileni said there was also a need for policy development and budget allocation targeted towards women’s health .She said the National Health Act of 2003 does not provide for women’s health, it only provides for maternal health and family planning.
According to Chief Director, Population and Development in the Department of Social Development, Jacques van Zuydam “any form of coerced sterilization and any other invasions of bodily autonomy without expressed permission from the client is illegal in South Africa.”