Kenya, Forced Sterilization, & Women with HIV

by Antonia Chan

“…women were even asked to sign consent forms for their sterilization while in labor.”

July 21, 2015. The High Court of Kenya has begun reviewing two important cases on the human rights of people living with HIV. The first concerns the forced or coerced sterilization of HIV-positive women; the second challenges a directive from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to list the names of HIV-positive individuals, including children. KELIN, an NGO that promotes and advocates for HIV-related human rights in Eastern Africa, has helped spearhead the push for the Kenyan High Court to address these cases, which will be heard on July 29 and August 14, respectively.

The sterilization of HIV-positive Kenyan women without their consent first sparked outrage in 2012, when a report titled “Robbed of Choice” described the experiences of 40 women living with HIV who had been forcibly or coercively sterilized. Five of those women are now suing the Kenyan government for violations of their health and human rights. In a paper published in HHR’s June 2013 issue, Uberoi and de Bruyn noted that some of these women were even asked to sign consent forms for their sterilization while in labor. The authors concluded that punitive and restrictive laws related to pregnancy have numerous adverse consequences—both health-related and socioeconomic—for women, and urged human rights groups to work with government institutions to protect and fulfill women’s fundamental reproductive rights. [Full article].

This article was originally published in Harvard FXB’s Health and Human Rights journal. The online, open access publication is the leading journal in the field of health and human rights.