In 2002, Francisca gave birth to a healthy baby boy in a Chilean hospital—and was then sterilized without her consent by the doctor who performed her Cesarean section. The doctors decided to perform the surgical sterilization because they thought it was irresponsible for an HIV-positive woman to have more children.
Today, the government of Chile announced it has entered into a “friendly settlement” with Francisca to provide her with reparations and to reform its policies to protect against forced sterilization and discrimination for people living with HIV.
The settlement is the result of over a decade of work by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo, a Chilean-based HIV/AIDS service organization, which represented Francisca before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The two organizations filed the case at the IACHR in 2009 after an earlier criminal complaint against the surgeon was dismissed by the Chilean justice system.
“All women, regardless of their HIV status, should be free to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to have children and what is best for their own health and life. It is a great satisfaction to have supported Francisca in achieving this agreement,” said Catalina Martinez Coral, the Center’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We will continue working to make sure the State complies in a comprehensive manner.”
The agreement signed today also guarantees a mechanism that allows the Center and Vivo Positivo to monitor the compliance of the commitments made by the Chilean State. In case of non-compliance, the process can continue its course until the issuance of a merits report and, if necessary, could advance to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Francisca’s Case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
In their petition before the IACHR in 2009, the Center and Vivo Positivo argued that the government failed to protect Francisca from being forcibly sterilized. In 2014, the IACHR admitted the case for the violation of the rights to health, to integrity, to a life free from gender-based violence, to personal liberty and security, to an effective judicial remedy and to equality before the law.
Today’s agreement awards full reparations to Francisca and her son and requires Chile to implement policies to guarantee reproductive rights as human rights without discrimination.
“I am relieved that after so many years of negotiation we now have this agreement, which will help ensure that no other woman experiences the trauma that I went through,” said Francisca at the document signing today.
People Living with HIV Face Discrimination in Latin America and the Caribbean
In Chile and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, people living with HIV often face discrimination and violations of their human rights—and the forced sterilization performed on Francisca was a clear violation of her fundamental human rights.
Because HIV-positive people face discrimination when they access or attempt to access health services, States have an obligation to guarantee and respect their rights. Despite this obligation, the public hospital Francisca attended did not provide her with adequate, complete and accessible information in order to give her consent before sterilizing her taking away her reproductive capacity.
“This Agreement marks a milestone in Chile and sets a precedent that there are no second-class women and that human rights are also for women living with HIV. We never again want to see a forced sterilization, never again a woman with her rights violated behind the door of an operating room,” said Sara Araya, gender area coordinator of Vivo Positivo.
- Chile Accepts Responsibility Before the IACHR for Forced Sterilization and Will Take Measures to End the Practice, 08.03.21
- Justice for Francisca, 03.28.17
- Forced Sterilization in Chile, 09.30.14
- Center Report: Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities, 10.20.10