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Women sue State over ‘forced sterilisation’

A woman from Majengo slums in Nairobi is among several others living with HIV who have gone to court seeking compensation over “forced sterilisation”.

They tell of the pain and trauma they underwent after being forced to undergo tubal ligation at Pumwani Maternity Hospital.

They were referred there by Blue House Mathare Clinic, a medical centre run by Médecins Sans Frontières of France.

They have been identified only as SWK, PAK, KWK and AMM in a case they filed alongside Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV/Aids and the African Gender and Media Initiative Trust.

The two civil society groups said the case of the four women was just a small portion of 40 women living with HIV who confirmed they were forced to accept permanent sterilisation in clinics across the country.

WHEELED INTO THEATRE

“The act of coercive and forceful sterilisation 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,” lawyer Allan Maleche said.

SWK says that she tested HIV positive in 2003 and conceived in 2009. She attended prenatal care at Blue House Mathare Clinic, but went to deliver at Pumwani Maternity Hospital with a warning she would not qualify for aid if she refused to be sterilised.

“A nurse at Pumwani talked to me about family planning and before I was wheeled into the theatre, I was given a form to sign. I did not read the form and do not know its contents to date. I only became aware after several months that it was my consent for the sterilisation,” she states.

After discharge from Pumwani, SWK says she went back to Blue House Clinic to collect formula milk for her baby and food portions for herself but she was told she would not be given unless she showed proof of having undergone tubal ligation.

CAESAREAN OPERATION

She went back to Pumwani Hospital where her clinic card was stamped indicating “the patient wishes to undergo BTL.”

“The nurse at Pumwani informed me that the procedure was performed during the Caesarean operation. I was not informed of any other family planning option and did not get a chance to choose the one most appropriate for me,” SWK said.

PAK, too, talks of undergoing the same procedure, saying, the Blue House Clinic threatened to cut aid to her and her children, after which she was forced to undergo sterilisation at Marie Stopes clinic in Huruma.

“I have sought medical opinion from other doctors who have informed me that the procedure is permanent and cannot be reversed,” PAK said.

GWK and AMM said they suffered the same fate at Pumwani and Marie Stopes, following coercion and threats from Blue House Clinic in Mathare.

The petitioners are seeking a declaration that the forceful sterilisation and withholding of aid on condition that they be sterilised was unconstitutional and violation of international health standards. They are demanding compensation.

Respondents in the suit are listed as Medecines Sans Frontiers – France, Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Marie Stopes International and the Ministry of Health.