08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rwanda Forced Sterilization Bill Sparks Controversy

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a statement excoriating a draft bill in the Rwandan Parliament that would govern individuals' reproductive health with compulsory AIDS tests and forced sterilization for subjects deemed to be mentally disabled. According to HRW health and human rights director Joe Amon, "Compulsory HIV testing and forced sterilization are counterproductive to the Rwandan government's goal of improved reproductive health ... Provisions in the current bill that increase stigma, rely on coercion, and deny individuals their reproductive rights should be removed."

Amon then adds that: "While Rwanda has made notable progress in fighting stigma and responding to the AIDS epidemic, and has pledged to advance the rights of persons with disability, forced sterilization and mandatory HIV testing do not contribute to those goals, these elements of the bill undermine reproductive health goals and undo decades of work to ensure respect for reproductive rights."

According to HRW, Rwanda ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in May of 2008, which is meant to guarantee protection for people with mental disabilities from encroachments on their bodily integrity.

According to the BBC:

Forced sterilisation is regarded as a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Rwanda has successfully managed to lower the spread of Aids in recent years thanks to its HIV campaign. Figures from the World Bank in 2007 put the prevalence of Aids in the country at about 3%, down from 11% in 2000.

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