If you are a HIV-positive woman anywhere else in the world, the issue of whether you are able to have children or not is probably the least of your worries. But across much of rural Africa, where women are still largely illiterate, dependent on men, and valued for their ability to rear large families, forced sterilization by their governments have led a group of women to file lawsuits.
This obviously violates western principles of human rights on so many levels. But transporting our morals to a region where the very basic human needs – food, shelter, education, health, security have yet been secured, can we pursue all those ideals in parallel?
From forced sterilizations in Africa, to mothers in America willing to undergo late-term abortions to avoid giving birth to children with Down Syndromes. I think an important point is made here that considers not only the rights of the mothers and their bodies, but also rights of their babies, and the society at large.
Many of those children borne under these dire consequences hardly have good standard of living, little chance to get ahead in life, and may suffer unnecessarily. Do some mothers put the needs of themselves above those of their children, knowing fully that they may never lead an independent existence? Are costs to their wider family unit and their qualities of lives not worth considering? Are rights to live really an absolutely right, to be pursued at any costs?
Even in affluent societies, families with a disabled child find themselves exhausted, mentally, psychically and financially. Although most parents in these situations would never wish for anything different, the cost is not to be underestimated nor ignored in this fight that often overlooks human costs in favour of moral absolutes.