Human Rights NATIONAL

UN welcomes Chilean apologies over forced sterilization HIV-positive woman

Victims of forced sterilizations received an apology from President Gabriel Boric. The apology was prompted by a case that happened 20 years ago. Meanwhile, UNAIDS said the practice is still too common in the region.

President Gabriel Boric publicly apologized to a victim of forced sterilization, Fransisca, a woman who tested HIV-positive and was forcibly sterilized 20 years ago. Boric issued an apology as a part of settlement that was reached on the case presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the Chilean state. This settlement and apology from Boric comes after nearly a decade of international litigation by the woman and her legal team.  

In 2002, Fransisca was diagnosed with HIV during routine prenatal checkups. While anesthetized during a C-section, doctors decided to sterilize her because they considered it inappropriate for someone like her having more children. 

Boric admitted victims like her had been denied justice. “It hurts to think that the State … is responsible for these cases. I pledge to you … that while we govern, we will give the best of each one of us as authorities so that something like this will never happen again and certainly so that in cases where these atrocities have already been committed, they will be properly redressed,” he said during a press conference. 

NGO Vivo Positivo took Fransisca’s case to the IACHR in 2009 and in August 2021 Chile signed a settlement taking responsibility for the sterilization. The settlement involves housing subsidies and healthcare for the victim and a commitment to raise awareness regarding HIV and reproductive rights. 

UN welcomes apologies

“This settlement is a significant moment for women around the world who have been fighting for reproductive justice for decades,” said UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima in a statement. “Unfortunately, this practice is still happening in many countries and efforts to stop it and bring justice to more women must be stepped up,” According to statistics by UNAIDS, 77,000 HIV-positive people were living in Chile in 2020. 

“We welcome the recognition of international accountability in this emblematic case of human rights violations that women living with HIV and their reproductive autonomy have long suffered,” said Luisa Cabal, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In his apology, Boric also pledged to strengthen sexual and reproductive rights. Chile’s new Constitution, to be voted on in a plebiscite on Sept. 4, contains provisions for more bodily autonomy and sexual education, and access to abortion.

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