UN CEDAW Pushes Chile to Guarantee Rights of Women Living with HIV

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) finished its periodic reports on Chile and, in October, issued concluding observations that drew directly from input provided by the Center for Reproductive Rights and were critical of the country's treatment of and discrimination against women living with HIV.

Ten years ago, a 20-year-old woman, known in court documents as F.S., found out from prenatal testing in her first trimester that she was HIV positive. The devastating news was offset by the possibility that her child could be born healthy. She did everything she could through the remainder of the pregnancy to deliver a healthy baby.

Her son, delivered via cesarean section, was born HIV negative and healthy. But F.S. was stunned to discover that the operating surgeon sterilized her while she was unconscious, without her permission. F.S. would never have children again.

With its partner VIVO POSITIVO, the Center filed a lawsuit—F.S. v. Chile—before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has continued to monitor the treatment of women in Chile. The Center delivered to CEDAW criticism on many aspects of the reproductive rights landscape in Chile, especially the treatment of women living with HIV. The comments recognized that the government had adopted many positive laws and policies, but their implementation has been lacking, exposing women to a harsh environment.

Two of CEDAW's concluding observations stuck out. First, in addition to expressing concern about reported cases of involuntary sterilization, CEDAW noted that Chilean medical facilities are forcing HIV tests upon pregnant women even though they have the right to refuse them. A second observation urged Chile to rectify both of these situations by acquiring consent for any future sterilizations and by informing all pregnant women of their right to refuse HIV/AIDS testing.

The Center will continue to monitor reproductive health care in Chile as it continues to pursue the F.S. case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and hopes that Chilean officials will heed CEDAW's concerns by implementing the laws and policies it has passed.