World AIDS Day: Probe into forced sterilisation of HIV positive women at state hospitals

Johannesburg – The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has welcomed the probe launched by the Department of Health into the forced sterilisation of HIV positive women at state hospitals.

The Commission said it has noted with interest the presentation by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize before the Portfolio Committees of Health and Women, Youth and People with Disabilities where the department said it will launch a probe into the forced sterilisation of HIV positive women at state hospitals.

This follows an investigation report launched by CGE wherein 48 women alleged that they were forced or coerced to undergo sterilisation after delivering babies in public health facilities in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, several years ago due to their HIV positive status.

Upon the launch of the report on 24 February, more women started coming forward from other provinces saying they too were allegedly subjected to this inhumane and cruel treatment.

Judging by the complaints received after the launch, the Commission presupposes that the allegations of forced or coerced sterilisation were not limited to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Gender Equality Chairperson Tamara Mathebula said that the Commission for Gender Equality investigated forced or coerced sterilisation due to HIV status as it viewed it as a fundamental human rights violation.

Mathebula said the announcement that Minister 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,” Mathebula said.

Mathebula added that 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,” Mathebula said.

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

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