At least 15 hospitals and 48 staff have been involved in coerced or forced sterilisation of women living with HIV/Aids.
A report by the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa investigated reported cases from 2002 onwards – and found that staff at the hospitals were party to gross human rights violations, as well as those of reproductive rights.
Forced sterilisation was recognised as a gross human rights and medical ethics violation – often described as an act of torture, cruelty, inhumane and degrading – by a United Nations’ (UN) special rapporteur.
The hospitals involved include five in Gauteng and 10 in KwaZulu-Natal.
Chair of the commission Tamara Mathebula said most of the doctors and staff involved in coercing or forcing patients to agree to sterilisation were motivated by personal reasons.
Buyiselwa Daweti, an activist, said her horrific ordeal with a private hospital in Cosmo City in 2002 inspired her to fight for reproductive health rights and awareness, especially for vulnerable women sterilised against their will.
“I had an abortion without my consent, which is in line with [forced] sterilisation, based on a lie by a doctor, who said my twins were not growing. He gave me tablets stating he wanted the twins to grow. The next day, I had a miscarriage, which I thought was natural,” Daweti said.
“What made me come here? I wanted to hear what has changed … I fought for 14 years with no intervention from the health department, though they knew there was a woman out there who was fighting for the life of her daughter.”
Daweti’s research has uncovered over a dozen cases of forced or coerced sterilisation.
The commission ordered the Nursing Council of SA, the Health Professional’s Council of SA, as well as the national health department to look into findings implicating hospital staff found to have participated in the transgressions.
The department must respond within three months to the report, with indications on how it planned to review its consent forms and the consent process.
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