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Kenyan High Court rules forced sterilization of woman with HIV violates her human rights

The Kenyan High Court has ruled that the forced sterilization of a woman living with HIV is a violation of her human rights, marking the first case of its kind.

In December 2022, after eight years of litigation, Hon. Justice Mrima delivered a historic judgment, declaring that the tubal ligation of a woman living with HIV without her consent violated her rights to dignity, freedom from discrimination, right to health, and her right to found a family.

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The case was initiated in Nairobi in 2014 by a Kenyan woman living with HIV, with support from KELIN (The Kenyan Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV AIDS), one of the petitioners in the case.

The plaintiff contested the actions of a healthcare provider at a private medical facility who sterilized her without her knowledge or consent. She expressed her satisfaction with the verdict, saying, “This win is not just for me but for each woman living with HIV who has been subjected to forced sterilization. I am happy that the violations against us have been acknowledged and hope my story will be a tool for the protection of the right to health for other women living with HIV.”

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The judge ordered the first and second respondents, Marura Maternity and Nursing Home, and the County Government of Nairobi, to pay the petitioner 3,000,000 Kenyan shillings as damages.

Allan Maleche, Executive Director of KELIN, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, saying, “We welcome the court’s decision and although it took a long time, we are happy that the court found the client’s rights had been violated, and particularly the finding of discrimination on the basis of sex and HIV status.”

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The court found that the healthcare provider’s conduct violated the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to freedom from discrimination.

It also ruled that healthcare providers have a duty to inform patients about medical procedures, including possible outcomes.

Justice Mrima noted that some women, due to their HIV status, may be pressured into making reproductive health decisions due to stigma and fear, which contributed to the forced sterilization of the plaintiff.

KELIN advocates for health-related human rights and recognizes the interconnectedness of HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, and rights.

The organization advocates for laws and policies that protect and fulfill sexual and reproductive rights, engages in strategic litigation, strengthens the capacities of community-based organizations, and provides legal support for medical providers and women affected by penal provisions on abortion.

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