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Uganda women's movement fights forced sterilization of HIV-positive women

Uganda

Uganda women’s movement fights forced sterilization of HIV-positive women

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Many HIV-positive women in Uganda have undergone forced and coerced sterilization, while government and hospital officials are denying its taking place. The Nakyesa Women’s Movement (NWM) protests to bring the topic to attention.

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Many HIV-positive women in Uganda have undergone forced and coerced sterilization in public hospitals. The government and health workers are denying this from taking place. The Nakyesa Women’s Movement (NWM) is planning a march and sit-in to protect women’s rights, and compiling victims’ testimonies together with a human rights lawyer to file a case.

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In Bbale, Uganda, there have been over 180 HIV-positive women who have undergone forced and coerced sterilization by medical doctors from the Kayunga Hospital. Irrespective of efforts to seek legal help or try to voice this, authorities have swept the issues under the carpet, leaving the rights of many violated.

Many health workers deny that forced sterilization is happening. The Ugandan Health Minister Elioda Tumwesigye said the government’s policy was “clear”: “if you become pregnant we give you treatment.”

The NWM aims to expose the health workers who have been violating the reproductive rights of women and bring them under legal scrutiny. Moreover, it is imperative that the Ugandan government becomes aware of the illegal practices taking place at public hospitals to stop further occurrence. The NWM hopes to inspire other women’s movements who have so far been silent on these issues to demand the protection of their rights.

Concretely, a march is planned, ending in a sit-in in the gardens of the Kayunga Hospital. The local police has endorsed the protest and will escort the NWM. The protest is held keeping into account the Covid-19 safety measures of wearing a mask, hand-washing and social distancing of two meters.

Moreover, many forcibly sterilized women have been ignored by government authorities because of their illiteracy. Therefore, the NWM will hire a human rights lawyer to compile women’s testimonies and petitions to make a strong case for urgent action by the Ugandan government to stop these practices from happening and to punish the health workers responsible.

(Lacking media material, the photo above is from an article in The Guardian from SheDecides, an anti-abortion protest in Uganda in 2018).