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Court grants State time in ‘forced sterilization’ case

The High Court has given the government and four health institutions thirty days to respond to a suit by a group of women claiming they were forcefully sterilized.

Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi also said the respondents should file their submissions within that period to enable speedy conclusion of the petition by the women who claim they were sterilized due to their HIV status.

Judge Ngugi gave the directions after the respondents, among them the Ministry of Health, Medecins Sans Frontieres of France, Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Marie Stopes International and Marura Maternity and Nursing Home said they needed more time to put a response.

The women, whose identity are concealed to protect them from stigma, filed the petition in conjunction with the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV/AIDS (KELIN) and the African Gender and Media Initiative Trust.

TUBAL LIGATION

They argued that they were forced to undergo bilateral tubal ligation at Pumwani Maternity Hospital upon being referred there by Blue House Mathare Clinic, a medical centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres of France.

According to the two civil society groups, the case of the four women was just a small portion of the sampling of 40 women living with HIV who confirmed they were coerced to accept permanent sterilization procedures in various health facilities across the country.

“The act of coercive and forceful sterilization of women living with HIV by way of bilateral tubal ligation without their informed consent, and the threat of withholding aid if they do not go through the process is degrading and an abuse of their dignity,” said their lawyer Allan Maleche.

The women swore that the forced sterilization had caused them suffering, trauma, emotional torture and threats of their marriages falling apart due to pressure from their husbands who want more children.

The petitioners are seeking a declaration that forceful sterilization and withholding of aid as condition for assistance from some health facilities was unconstitutional and violation of international health standards.

They want compensation for all women who have undergone forceful sterilization. The hearing is scheduled on May 8 2015.