When doctors at Katatura State Hospital in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, booked Shantel Ferreira* for a follow-up operations after she gave birth to her first child, she thought nothing of it - until she started asking questions about the acronym "BTL" which appeared on her form. At the time, she had no idea the initials stood for a form of female sterilisation known as bitubal ligation.
According to the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, Namibian HIV-positive mothers like Ferreira have been reporting cases of coerced or forced sterilisations since at least January 2008. Ferreira spoke to IRIN/PlusNews about how the birth of her second child almost did not happened.
"I gave birth early at seven months – the doctors said couldn't give me an operation then [what she thought was a routine follow-up procedure] so they booked me for another month. When I arrived, a nurse asked me why I was there. I told her I was booked into theatre, that's why I'm here.
"First thing, when I got there I asked the nurse about this paper they gave me to sign, I was like, 'What's this BTL?' She was like, 'Can't you see I'm alone here and I'm busy? Just sign the paper and put it on the desk. I'll come and tell you later.
"The next morning when I went to the theatre, the electricity went off so I went back to the wards to change and wait for the next day. So another [nurse] came in and this time she was friendly so I asked her what a 'BTL' was and she started explaining.
"I was like, ‘What? You’re trying to deny me giving birth to my child? Even it it's born sick, let me take care of it.' She said, fine then you should make a plan and leave this hospital.
"Me and my friend were both supposed to go in for an operation that day and we both just left 'cause when I found out what a BTL was, I told her. We were both scared so we just walked out.
"I've got two kids. Being a mom – there's ups and downs but it's good, and now people are being denied their right to have kids."
*not her real name
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
We uncovered the sex abuse scandal that rocked the WHO, but there’s more to do
We just covered a report that says the World Health Organization failed to prevent and tackle widespread sexual abuse during the Ebola response in Congo.
Our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation triggered this probe, demonstrating the impact our journalism can have.
But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking.
We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.
The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and do more of this.