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Forcibly Sterilized Woman Files Case Against Chile

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In early December, a woman diagnosed with HIV filed a complaint against Chile before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, charging that Chile did not protect her from being forcibly sterilized at a state hospital after she gave birth.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Chilean based HIV/AIDS service organization Vivo Positivo, submitted a petition on her behalf. In the petition the 27-year-old woman from Chile, who goes by the initials F.S. argues that the hospital operated on her because of her HIV status. She was not asked for her consent.

Luisa Cabal, director of the international program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “Forced sterilization is a violation of a woman’s most basic human rights and is all too often committed against members of vulnerable groups, which deserve special protection, such as women living with HIV.” She went on to say that it’s time that the Chilean government respect the human rights of all its citizens.

F.S. was diagnosed with HIV in 2002 after learning she was pregnant. She went to the Curico Hospital for treatment during her pregnancy. She never requested sterilization and her husband planned on having more children. Vivo Positivo did a study in Chile in 2004 and found that of the women living with HIV who had been sterilized, 29% had been pressured by medical staff to do so, and 12.9% did not give their consent. The study also found that the majority of the women had received counseling promoting the idea that HIV women should not become pregnant. With the appropriate measures the risk of transmitting the virus to the newborn can be reduced to less than two percent.

Executive Director of Vivo Positivo said that despite proof to the contrary, the Ministry of Health and the Chilean Courts decided that F.S.’s rights were not violated.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo argue that Chile has violated F.S.’s right to be free from discrimination, and also her right to decide on the number and spacing of her children, “the right to be free from violence, and the right to have access to justice.” All these rights are guaranteed under the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.

The Center and Vivo Positivo are asking that the Commission recommend that Chile acknowledge the fact that F.S.’s human rights were violated, give her monetary compensation, and adopt policies that do not impinge upon reproductive choices of women with HIV.

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