Workshop unpacks issues around involuntary sterilisation of women in SA

Yesterday, in commemoration of women’s month, the Socio-Economic Rights Project (SERP) convened a one-day Stakeholders Engagement Workshop on Involuntary Sterilisation of Women in South Africa as Gender-Based Violence.

Although South Africa has developed policies that address the ‘practice’ of involuntary sterilisation, the gap is a framework, which recognises and links this practice to vulnerability and gender-based violence, as well as proper enforcement of policies.

The workshop brought together a cross section of stakeholders to address holistically the issue of involuntary sterilisation of women as a human rights violation. Participants at the workshop included representatives of relevant government departments, medical profession, public health practitioners, Chapter 9 institutions, members of academia, civil society organisations active in women’s rights and local community leaders.

The workshop through an interdisciplinary approach, aimed to broaden understanding of and highlight the issues around involuntary sterilisation, create awareness and propel the process for advocacy and policy change.

Key viewpoints shared at the workshop include- a crucial need for human rights training for health practitioners and community members on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women; a need to redefine consent in the context of procedures such as sterilisation, including the need to view consent as a ‘process rather than an event’.

Participants also expressed strong views on revisiting the prescription period for matters of involuntary sterilisation, given the attendant psychological effects this has on women; it was the general consensus that involuntary sterilisation of women and its continued practice is indicative of the unequal power balance in society which perpetuates the cycle of violation of rights.

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