The human rights and feminist lawyers were hopeful. Finally a decision on forced sterilization from the Inter-American Court. Deprived of the remedial austerity of its Strasbourg equivalent, and with a harder legal force than the CEDAW Committee, this judgment was bound to be important. The I.V. v. Bolivia landmark decision on the forced sterilization of a refugee woman in Bolivia was delivered during the late days of 2016.
Inspired by the insightful earlier post by Lisa Reinsberg and Francisco Rivera Juaristi, I here discuss the specific reparations provided by the Inter-American Court and explain why the Court missed an opportunity to do something more transformative.
The reparations in I.V. v. Bolivia demonstrate the usual remedial richness of the Inter-American Court. The Court ordered personalized, specialized, and free medical rehabilitation, considering the direct victim’s sexual, reproductive, psychological and psychiatric health harms and needs. It also ordered the state to include I.V.’s family in the therapy and to pay 50,000 US Dollars in compensation to the direct victim for monetary and non-monetary damages. The Court recognized the encroachment of the applicant’s personal integrity, and the subsequent denial of justice, and commanded the state to publish the judgment and acknowledge its responsibility. As a guarantee of non-repetition, the Court stated that Bolivia needs to secure that consent to sterilization is always prior, free, informed, and full. Hence, all public and private hospitals ought to be equipped with printed, succinct information about the reproductive and sexual health rights of women: for the patients and the personnel. Finally, Bolivia should adopt permanent programs for medical students and professionals on informed consent, stereotyping, gender discrimination and violence.
The reparations ordered by the Court in I.V. v. Bolivia are plentiful, but not groundbreaking. They are largely consistent with existing, cited supranational practice. Indeed, also the CEDAW Committee (in the 2006 case A.S. v. Hungary) highlighted the importance of educating and monitoring medical staff in public and private health centers, and “naming and shaming”-awareness-raising through publication of supranational decisions. Moreover, the 50,000 US Dollars for damages is not that much more than the approximate 30,000 US Dollars that the Strasbourg Court has ordered the state to pay victims of involuntary sterilization (in 2011–12 cases V.C. v. Slovakia; N.B. v. Slovakia; and I.G. and Others v. Slovakia). In comparison to compensation amounts normally figuring in the IACtHR’s decisions, the figure in I.V. v. Bolivia is relatively low. Overall, the Court’s remedial approach is similar to the Inter-American Commission’s recommendations in the same case two years earlier. The landmark nature of I.V. v. Bolivia, in combination with the substantial references to earlier cases, seems to have made the Court self-conscious, adopting a cautious approach.