(PRESS RELEASE) Reproductive health and human rights advocates gathered in Washington D.C. for a hearing in the case of F.S., a Chilean woman living with HIV who was sterilized without her consent.
During the hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – the main human rights body for the Americas—the Center for Reproductive Rights, who with Vivo Positivo filed the F.S case, called on the Chilean government to provide F.S. compensation for the harm she suffered. The Center also called for criminal sanctions for those responsible for violating her rights and measures to guarantee that no other woman living with HIV will be sterilized against her will in the future. Watch the hearing.
In September 2014, the Commission declared F.S. v. Chile admissible—the first-ever forced sterilization case for a pregnant woman living with HIV in Latin America to be decided by an international human rights body. In the petition, the Center and Vivo Positivo argued that the forced sterilization of F.S. violated her rights to personal integrity, due process, access to information, privacy and family life, non-discrimination, judicial protection and her right to be free from violence.
Said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Every woman has a fundamental right to control her reproductive life, no matter who she is or what her HIV status may be.
“F.S. was robbed of her basic reproductive decision-making and deserves justice.
“The Inter-American Commission must hold the Chilean government accountable for ignoring human rights violations and discrimination against people living with HIV.”
At the hearing, Chilean officials acknowledged the government’s failure to protect the reproductive rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and verbally expressed intentions to enter a friendly settlement agreement.
F.S. is a Chilean woman living with HIV who gave birth in November 2002 via cesarean. Aware of her HIV status, the surgeon operating on F.S. surgically sterilized her during the delivery without her knowledge or consent—despite the fact that Chilean law requires written consent from a woman before any sterilization procedure. F.S. later filed a criminal complaint against the surgeon in March 2007, but due to a substandard police investigation, the Chilean judiciary dismissed the case, falsely claiming F.S. had given verbal consent to sterilization. She continues to suffer physical and psychological harms today.
“I wanted to be a young mother and my country cut short my plans to expand my family,” said F.S. during her testimony. “I might seem like a normal, healthy person, but I feel empty inside.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Chilean-based HIV/AIDS NGO Vivo Positivo brought the F.S. case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009. The petition argues that her forced sterilization took place in an environment that discriminated and stigmatized people living with HIV, particularly pregnant women seeking maternal health services. The petition seeks the legislative and policy changes necessary to fully protect the sexual and reproductive rights of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, including pregnant woman.
In 2010, the Center and Vivo Positivo collaborated on the report Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities. The report uncovered that abuse against women living with HIV/AIDS in Chile by medical professionals is widespread, including sterilizing them without their knowledge or consent during other procedures. It notes that Chile has failed to protect the human rights of women living with HIV in the country by fostering an environment in which healthcare workers willfully discriminate against them.