Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Disabled women in Swaziland fear nurses trying to force them to be sterilised

Women with disabilities in Swaziland / eSwatini say they fear nurses are trying to force them to be sterilised so they cannot have babies. 

According to the Swazi Observer, ‘health practitioners coerce them into removing their uterus as they are told that they were incapable of mothering children because of their disabilities’.

It published an account from a woman, aged 25, who uses a wheelchair and was in labour. ‘One nurse at first wanted to know how I was going to mother the baby because I myself needed to be taken care of,’ she said.

She added, ‘I felt like I was being stripped naked. The conversation turned serious when I was told to consider being made sterile before I leave the hospital.’

The newspaper said, ‘After having refused to be made sterile and fearing not being capable of having any more children, one nurse made remarks to the effect that next time she returned, there would be no negotiations.’

The Observer reported Disabled Women of Swaziland Director Buyi Masuku said she knew of individual experiences of some women with disabilities when being attended to in public health institutions.

The newspaper said many parents had their disabled daughters sterilised to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Human Rights Commissioner Sabelo Masuku told the newspaper this was a shocking gross violation of human rights and one of a kind the commission had never dealt with before.

People with physical or mental challenges are often mistreated in Swaziland. In March 2019 it was reported a 17-year-old girl with deformed feet who had never been able to walk was forced by her family to live in a shack like a dog. The family said they had tried to accommodate her in the house but she would frequently soil herself if there was no one around to assist her. 

In 2017 Autism Swaziland Director Tryphinah Mvubu said people with autism were often excluded from social services because their parents kept them away from the public in fear of embarrassment. 

The Swazi Observer newspaper at the time reported her saying, ‘Some parents refuse to accept children with this condition as this disorder is considered to be a bad omen, hence they are locked in the house day in and day out so they cannot be seen by members of the community. They are so stigmatised to an extent that in some cases they are not even counted as members of the family.’

It is not only autistic children who are hidden. In July 2016, it was reported in local media that two disabled orphan children in Swaziland had been concealed from the world after a government official told their family it would harm the image of the kingdom if people knew of their condition.

It was reported that the two children aged 16 and eight might be suffering from polio. It was said they had not walked since they were born and had shrunk muscles and could only crawl. They both cannot talk. 

The abandonment of the children was one of many examples of poor treatment of people with disabilities in Swaziland.

A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.

‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’

It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.

‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’

See also

Hidden sick kids: UNICEF responds

Disabled people ‘treated like animals’

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