August 3, 2021, Santiago and Bogotá –In a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the government of Chile has agreed to provide reparations to a woman forcibly sterilized in a Chilean hospital and adopt measures to guarantee informed and free consent to women, including protections against discrimination for people living with HIV.
The agreement was reached with the legal support of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo, which brought the case to the IACHR in 2009 after an earlier criminal complaint against the surgeon was dismissed by the Chilean justice system.
The victim of the forced sterilization, known as “Francisca,” signed the Friendly Settlement Agreement today before the IACHR after the Chilean State accepted its responsibility in the non-consensual sterilization she endured at the hospital. Francisca was diagnosed with HIV after she became pregnant in 2002. When she received her Cesarean section —and after giving birth to a healthy baby boy— the doctors performed a surgical sterilization on her since they thought it was irresponsible for an HIV-positive woman to have more children.
“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. I’m happy that now I can live peacefully with my son and put this episode in the past once and for all,” said Francisca at the signing of the document.
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.
“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, and we will continue working to make sure the State complies in a comprehensive manner,” said Catalina Martinez Coral, Center’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Women Living with HIV Face Discrimination in Latin America and the Caribbean
Women living with HIV face situations of discrimination when they access or try to access health services. For this reason, States have a reinforced obligation to guarantee and respect the rights of this population, including the duty to ensure voluntary, prior and informed consent.
Despite this obligation, the public hospital Francisca attended did not provide her with any information contrary to Chile’s international human rights obligations stating that she should have received adequate, complete and accessible information in order to give her consent. Nevertheless, Francisca was discriminated against for living with HIV by a medical team that decided, based on gender stereotypes, to restrict her bodily autonomy and take away her reproductive capacity without her consent.
“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.
By recognizing its responsibility in this human rights violation and signing the Agreement, the Chilean State committed itself to repair the damage caused, not only with individual measures but also with measures that transform the context of structural inequality that led to these events.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo have worked to guarantee Francisca the best possible conditions to access full reparation through this Friendly Settlement agreement.
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 could advance up to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights if necessary.
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