"I feel like half a woman all the time": The impacts of coerced and forced sterilisations on HIV-positive women in South Africa
HIV-positive women are entitled to sexual and reproductive health rights, including access to contraceptives of their choice. One such option is sterilisation. Given its permanency, a woman’s decision to sterilise should be voluntary and fully informed. However, there have been multiple reports that HIV-positive women are being sterilised without their informed consent, and sometimes without their knowledge, in southern Africa and elsewhere. The Article explores the socio-cultural, physical and emotional/psychological impacts of coerced and forced sterilisations on HIV-positive women. It is part of a larger qualitative study, conducted in South Africa, which explored the experiences of 22 HIV-positive women who reported being sterilised without their informed consent. Involuntary sterilisation has devastating impacts on women, affecting them mentally and physically, and impacting on their relationships with their partners, families and the wider community. Many interviewees reported that being sterilised profoundly affected their perceptions of themselves as women. Involuntary sterilisations have grave social and emotional implications for already marginalised HIV-positive women. Therefore efforts should be made to address human rights violations in South African healthcare settings and to prevent further gender-based abuses.