'She Made Up a Choice for Me': 22 HIV-Positive Women's Experiences of Involuntary Sterilization in Two South African Provinces

Posted: 21 Aug 2014

See all articles by Ann Strode

Ann Strode

School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Sethembiso Mthembu

Her Rights Initiative, Durban, South Africa

Zaynab Essack

Independent

Date Written: May 1, 2012

Abstract

Since 1998 South African law has provided that adults should have access to sterilization but only with their informed consent. However, the right to sterilization and other sexual and reproductive rights have not been fully realized as women struggle to access limited services, and there are allegations of discrimination and sterilization abuses. This qualitative study explores the experiences of 22 HIV-positive women in two provinces who reported being sterilized between 1996 and 2010 without their informed consent (n=18) or without their knowledge (n=4). Key issues reported by participants included failure to respect their autonomy, lack of information given about what sterilization entailed, and subtle or overt pressure to sign the consent form. Although the legal framework was intended to ensure informed decision-making regarding sterilization, these protections appear to have failed the HIV-positive women in this study. The findings suggest that some health professionals may consider a signature on a consent form as sufficient regardless of how it was obtained. Furthermore the women's perceptions that they were singled out as needing to be sterilized simply because they were HIV-positive warrants further investigation. More research is required on the nature of the problem and on other stakeholders' perceptions.

Keywords: Sterilization abuse, involuntary sterilization, informed consent, HIV-positive women, South Africa

Suggested Citation

Strode, Ann and Mthembu, Sethembiso and Essack, Zaynab, 'She Made Up a Choice for Me': 22 HIV-Positive Women's Experiences of Involuntary Sterilization in Two South African Provinces (May 1, 2012). Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 20, No. 39 Supplement, May, 2012 pp 27-38, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2483154

Ann Strode (Contact Author)

School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. ( email )

Durban 4041
South Africa

Sethembiso Mthembu

Her Rights Initiative, Durban, South Africa ( email )

Durban
South Africa

Zaynab Essack

Independent ( email )

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