PROMOTING ACCESS TO AFRICAN RESEARCH

Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal/Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad

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Sounding the Alarm: Government of the Republic of Namibia v LM and Women's Rights during Childbirth in South Africa

Camilla Pickles

Abstract


Government of the Republic of Namibia v LM [2014] NASC 19 (hereafter the LM case) concerns the involuntary sterilisation of women during childbirth. The Supreme Court of Namibia found that obtaining consent during the height of labour is inappropriate because labouring women lack the capacity to consent because of the intensity of their labour pains. This article recognises that the LM case may make its way into current litigation strategies against involuntary sterilisations in South Africa and for this reason I evaluate the soundness of the court's reasoning in the LM case. I argue that the court relied on the harmful gender stereotype that labouring women lack the capacity to make decisions, I expose this stereotype as baseless and demonstrate the harmful consequences of its perpetuation. Finally, I demonstrate why the reasoning in the LM case is particularly problematic in the South African context, and I conclude that the adoption of this sort of reasoning will result in many women facing serious injustices, because it strikes at the core of a woman's agency during childbirth.

Keywords: Involuntary sterilisation; childbirth; informed consent; capacity; obstetric violence; human rights.




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