On May 26, President Gabriel Boric of Chile delivered a public apology to Francisca, a woman with HIV who was sterilized without her consent after giving birth in 2002. The apology is part of a settlement in a case brought by the Center for Reproductive rights and Vivo Positivo, a Chilean-based HIV/AIDS service organization, which argued that the Chilean government failed to protect Francisca’s rights.
Attending virtually to protect her confidentiality, Francisca said, “I receive the apology offered to me by the Chilean State as a commitment to me and to all the people who went through a similar story because of our HIV status. It must be clear that I was not the only one, and that we still face discrimination in the health system. I am happy to know that my case can serve to end stereotypes about people living with HIV, and to improve health care for other women.”
The President acknowledged the harm caused to Francisca and committed to guaranteeing the reproductive autonomy of all people in Chile. President Boric delivered the commitment with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Antonia Urrejola, in an event attended by representatives from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Vivo Positivo, and the Center.
“I am honored to accompany Francisca in her search for justice and reparations. She is one of many women living with HIV who have been discriminated against while seeking out health services. That is why I want reinforce that States have a profound obligation to guarantee and respect the rights of this population, including the duty to ensure free, prior, and informed consent,” said Enid Muthoni Ndiga, Chief Program Officer at the Center.
Francisca’s Case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
In 2002, Francisca gave birth to a baby boy in a Chilean hospital—and was then sterilized without her consent under anesthesia based on her HIV status by the doctor who performed her Cesarean section.
The Center and Vivo Positivo filed a complaint in this case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2009. The IACHR admitted the case in 2014 on the basis of a violation of the rights to health, integrity, a life free from gender-based violence, personal liberty and security, effective judicial remedy, and equality before the law.
In August 2021, after more than a decade of efforts by the Center and Vivo Positivo, the government of Chile agreed to end forced sterilization, provide Francisca with reparations, and reform its policies to address discrimination against people living with HIV. The apology was part of the set of court-ordered reparations for Francisca and her family.
Chilean State Commits to Addressing Conditions that Led to Sterilization
In addition to making reparations to Francisca, the Chilean State has committed to implementing other aspects of the Friendly Settlement Agreement. This includes actions to ensure that her case is not repeated through public policy measures addressing the structural inequalities that led to Francisca’s sterilization without consent. Some of these actions to guarantee reproductive rights are to:
- Disseminate guidelines for health services that provide female and male sterilization (Voluntary surgical contraception, or VSC).
- Disseminate the Bill on Women’s Right to a Life Free of Violence.
- Develop awareness campaigns for care and non-discrimination for people living with HIV, with an emphasis on their sexual and reproductive rights.
- Increase the number of delivery rooms with a comprehensive care model within the infrastructure of new hospitals.
- Implement training in sexual and reproductive rights with a gender perspective for health, judicial, and administrative personnel.
Building on these actions, the Chilean State must ensure that people living with HIV are free from discrimination and violations of their reproductive rights.
- Chilean Government Publicly Apologizes to a Woman Who was Sterilized Without Her Consent Based on HIV Status, 05.26.2022
- Sobreviviente de esterilización sin consentimiento logra que Chile le pida disculpas públicas e inicie reformas para garantizar derechos reproductivos, 05.26.2022
- Chile Agrees to End Forced Sterilization Practices and Provide Reparations in Case at the IACHR, 08.03.2021