They took my choice away

Film about forced sterilisation in Namibia

Richard Lee's picture


Strategic communications for WWF

July 30th, 2012

In a landmark judgment, the High Court in Windhoek has ruled that the Namibian government had coercively sterilised three HIV positive women in violation of their basic rights because they had not given informed consent. The decision is a significant victory for HIV positive women in Namibia and affirms not only the rights of HIV positive women but also of all women to access their sexual and reproductive rights.

And it offers hope to other victims of this abuse in Namibia – women who have been victimised and sterilised because they are HIV positive and poor and marginalised.

Like Hilma – featured in this powerful film, They took my choice away – who discovered that she was sterilized only after the fact. The procedure was performed without her informed consent during a caesarean operation. 

Although she gave birth to two healthy boys, her doctor decided she should not be allowed to have more children because she is living with HIV. Thousands of women throughout southern Africa have had their right to have a child taken away from them.

Forced and coerced sterilization are a grave violation of human rights and medical ethics and can be described as acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Although sterilization may be carried out by individual health providers, it is ultimately the responsibility of governments to prevent such abuses from taking place. 

They took my choice away was funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and directed by Bob Sacha and Scott Anger.


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