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Namibia court rules government improperly sterilized HIV positive women

A court in Namibia has ruled that the government sterilized three HIV-positive women without obtaining appropriate consent, a legal aid group said Monday. The Southern African Litigation Center (SALC) [advocacy website] reported [press release] that the court ruled the sterilization of the women improper after finding that they were asked to sign the release forms "while they were in severe pain or in labour." Nicole Fritz, Executive Director of the SALC, praised the decision, saying: "This decision is a significant victory for HIV positive women in Namibia. ... This ruling affirms not only the rights of HIV positive women but also of all women to access their sexual and reproductive rights." The SALC said several similar cases were currently pending in Namibian courts. The government was found to have violated both criminal and civil law. The women will be awarded monetary damages, which will be determined at a later date.

Governments worldwide have struggled in recent years to prevent the spreading of HIV while balancing the rights of their citizens. Earlier this month a UN commission reported that laws in all countries of the world are limiting assistance and options available [JURIST report] to individuals infected with HIV/AIDS. The commission found that a variety of laws and practices worldwide affect individuals' ability both to prevent exposure to the virus and to seek help after infection. Last September, the UK Department of Health announced that it would lift the lifetime ban [JURIST report] on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men. Britain introduced the lifetime ban in the 1980s in an effort to quell the proliferation of HIV and AIDS. The US Department of Health and Human Services in July 2011 asked experts to review a similar US policy [ABC report] that bars gay men from donating blood. In November 2010 a Chinese court ruled against [JURIST report] a man who claimed he was denied a teaching job because he is HIV-positive, finding that the city education officials properly assessed his unsuitability for the position base on health standards.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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