Hilary White


African women fight back against forced, coerced sterilizations

Hilary White
Hilary White

NAIROBI, November 15, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of HIV-positive women in Kenya have launched a series of lawsuits in five countries after they were sterilized against their will following childbirth. Cases are pending before the courts in Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, and Namibia.

In many of the cases the women were told by government-sponsored health facilities that sterilization was mandatory for HIV-positive women. Some were threatened with the withdrawal of antiretroviral drugs, treatment that prolongs the life of HIV-infected patients. 

A report has been published by an independent NGO interviewing women who had experienced coerced or even forced sterilizations.

It shows that 75 percent of the forced sterilizations were conducted in public hospitals where women were often presented with consent documents to sign while in the midst of labor pains. Some said they were unconscious at the time and never signed any forms, while others say they were illiterate and could not understand what was being presented to them.

Some say that the consent forms were presented to them but that they were told that sterilization was mandatory for HIV-positive births.

According to the report “Robbed of Choice: Forced and Coerced Sterilization Experiences of Women Living with HIV in Kenya” by the African Gender and Media Initiative, forced sterilization is unnecessary, since mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be prevented using antiretroviral drugs and “modified obstetric and infant feeding practices”.

The study, which was conducted between October and November 2011 in Nairobi and Kakamega, interviewed about 40 women.

The group, which fully supports voluntary sterilization and the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection, said, “Forced and coerced contraceptive sterilization violates numerous rights guaranteed under the Kenyan constitution and multiple regional and international obligations that Kenya is signatory to.”

The women interviewed for the report said they had undergone “non-consensual tubal ligation when they visited health facilities to give birth through cesarean section. Others, who had normal delivery, were also later taken to the operating room for the procedure to be done”.

Among the groups cited by women in the report and in news investigations are Medicin Sans Frontiers and Marie Stopes International.

Marie Stopes issued a statement saying that informed consent is “fundamental” to its practice and that the report sampling was “a very small and…unrepresentative”.

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Most of the women were in their mid-twenties, and said that after sterilization men would not consider marrying them.

“Most of the men who have approached me for marriage want children. The moment they realize l cannot have babies, they leave,” Ruth Achieng, a survivor of the coerced sterilization who lives in Nairobi, told AllAfrica.com.

Others described the disintegration of their marriages after the procedure. Jones Imbwanga, one of the plaintiffs, described her loneliness CBC Radio in an interview, “I feel like the whole world wants to swallow me.”

In some cases, the women, most of whom were poor, were told that sterilisation was required as a condition for receiving free or reduced-price medical treatment or receiving food and medical aid for their children, especially milk and anti-retroviral medications. Some were told by doctors that they already had too many children and therefore permanent and irreversible contraception was necessary. Others were threatened with having their supply of antiretroviral drugs stopped if they did not consent to the procedure.

The report quotes the United Nations Human Rights Committee that calls “sterilization of women without their consent as a violation of the right to be free from torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment”. “Women living with HIV have a right to a family planning method of their choice and right to be sexually active and bear children,” they said.

Winfred Lichuma of the National Gender and Equality Commission described what happened to the women as “atrocious an infringement of their human rights and contrary to medical ethics”. The group also says that forced sterilisation is considered a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute and is prosecutable by the International Criminal Court.

The prevalence of involuntary sterilisation of HIV-positive women was highlighted this summer when Namibia’s High Court ruled in July that government health facilities had violated the rights of three women who had been sterilized without their free, full, and informed consent. The women had launched their suit in 2009.

One woman told the judge that she had been approached with consent forms while she was in extreme pain from labour. The judge called it “inappropriate” to seek consent while a woman is in active labor. The plaintiffs had not received sufficient counseling about the sterilization procedure in a language they could understand, according to a report by the group Stop Torture in Health Care.

Nicole Fritz, from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in Johannesburg, which brought the Namibian suit, said the three cases were only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Namibia has one of the highest rates of HIV prevalence, with about 13 percent of adults infected.

The fight-back has started over international and national groups pushing sterilization on African women. A project in western Kenya was blasted by human rights groups last year when it was discovered they were offering HIV-positive women cash for sterilizations. Project Prevention, a US-based NGO, was offering US $40 to be fitted with IUDs, which can prevent pregnancy for over a decade.

Agnes Odhiambo of New York-based Human Rights Watch blasted the NGO for “pushing women with HIV to take up long-term birth control irrespective of their reproductive needs”. James Kamau, coordinator of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, called the project “wrong, immoral and unethical”.

A Project Prevention operative told local news sources, “Why should you give birth to a child who will remain an orphan, or who is likely to die before his or her fifth birthday because the mother had infected them…Prevent the suffering before it occurs.”

In November 2011, Citizen TV ran a story about an HIV-positive widow in Mbita who had received a grant to start a fish farming venture from the American NGO. The sole qualification to receive the money was her agreement to be fitted with an IUD.

The Minister for Medical Services, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, responded to the reports, saying, “We can’t say as a government we have been good at providing family planning needs of women or even men but we are putting measures in place. But it is important to stress that even HIV-positive women have the right to have children if and when they desire. HIV doesn’t take that right way, not at all”.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website, www.babycaust.de, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” Katholisch.de editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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