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Rwanda: Reproductive Health Bill Provisions on Sterilization, Mandatory HIV Testing Decried

(July 7, 2009) A draft reproductive health bill currently under consideration by a committee of the Rwandan Parliament calls for forcible sterilization of the mentally disabled and includes “three particularly troublesome provisions” on HIV testing, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement issued on July 1, 2009. The bill mandates that the government “suspend fertility for mentally handicapped people,” HRW stated, pointing out that “systematic, forced sterilization has been recognized as a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” HRW further noted that in May 2008, Rwanda ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which upholds the equal rights of the disabled, including the mentally disabled. (Rwanda: Revise Reproductive Health Bill, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, July 1, 2009, available at
; art. 1, item 1(g), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (July 17, 1998; in force on July 1, 2002), U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9*), (last visited June 30, 2009); Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNITED NATIONS ENABLE website, (last visited July 1, 2009).)

The three HIV/AIDS provisions prescribe that: 1) persons who plan to marry must have a test for HIV/AIDS and provide certification to that effect before the marriage; 2) married individuals must undergo HIV/AIDS testing at the request of the spouse; 3) a physician may test children or the incapacitated for HIV/AIDS if he or she deems it “necessary, without seeking consent and may show the results to the parent, guardian, or care provider.” (HRW, id.)

Rwanda's anti-HIV/AIDS campaign has succeeded in lowering the spread of the disease in recent years; World Bank figures indicate that its prevalence shrunk from 11% in 2000 to 3% in 2007. (Fury at Rwanda Sterilisation Bill, BBC NEWS, July 1, 2009, available at However, despite this progress and the country's pledge to advance the rights of the disabled, the bill's provisions on forced sterilization and mandatory HIV testing would “undermine reproductive health goals and undo decades of work to ensure respect for reproductive rights,” declared Joe Amon, HRW's Program Director of Health and Human Rights. (HRW, supra.)