SEXUAL RIGHTS

Non-consent sterilisation cost me my marriage, says mother of three

Prisca dismisses claims in clinic documents that she accepted to under tubal ligation procedure.

In Summary

• Akumu, a single mother of three who is living with a disability, had given birth to her first two children through Caesarean section.

• She was rushed to hospital and immediately admitted under emergency because of the pain.

Prisca Akumu narrates her experience to delegates during the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights 2020 that ended on Friday.
Prisca Akumu narrates her experience to delegates during the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights 2020 that ended on Friday.
Image: COURTESY

Prisca Akumu gave birth to her third born at a Nairobi facility in 2007, something that changed her marital life for the worse.

Akumu, now a single parent of three, had given birth to her first two children through caesarean section. The Kibera woman, who lives with a disability, narrated her ordeal to delegates gathered in Nairobi for the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights 2020 that ended on Friday.

She said that in the first two deliveries, she had signed the theatre consent forms herself. Ahead of the third delivery, Akumu went into labour and was rushed to hospital and immediately admitted under emergency because of the pain she was suffering. However, this time she was subjected to a sterilisation procedure, and without her consent. 

"I was taken to a room, signed the forms and underwent the C-section. But after three days, the pain was so much that I could not turn,” she said.

She explained to the doctor on duty how she was feeling. "He took my file and after looking at it, he told me I had undergone tubal ligation, meaning I would not be able to get pregnant again."

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure for female sterilisation in which the fallopian tubes are permanently blocked or removed. This prevents fertilisation of eggs by sperm and subsequent implantation of a fertilised egg. The procedure is considered a permanent sterilisation and birth control method.

Akumu said documents at the hospital were showing that she had consented to the procedure — the reason being she was disabled and was already having two children. But this was untrue as her input was not sought, she added.

Back at home, she could not tell her husband what had transpired at the hospital. But several years later, the husband wanted another child, a boy, as Akumu had given birth to girls. That’s when things fell apart. Because of her inability to get pregnant again, her husband kicked her out of their matrimonial home and married another woman. She had to start her life all over again as a single mother.

"When you decide to go for family planning, you should be advised on the various methods available and the advantages and disadvantages of each. I was sterilised on grounds that I am disabled and already with three children and I have lived with that pain," Akumu said.

She noted that apart from being denied sexual and reproductive health rights, women living with a disability, especially from rural and slum areas, face a lot of challenges.

"The nurses ask very intimidating questions that scare away women from attending clinics. When I went to the clinic, the nurse asked: ‘Even you? Who did this to you?' I am a human being and have feelings like any other," she said.

She noted that Kibera, where she resides, has no public hospitals, save for MSF and Amref, which cannot be accessed by those in wheelchairs because of the poor state of roads. Akumu called on the government to beef up security in such areas, adding that going out at night when you are a woman living with disabilities is risky.

"I recall when I was admitted to hospital to give birth to one of my children, I was slapped by a sweeper because the beds were too high and by the time I came down, I had already messed the floor."

Leah Adhiambo, an adolescent-girls mentor in slum areas, said such issues have affected the mental well-being of girls not just those living with disabilities.

"Girls in slums and those in villages face the same challenges. Slums have dark corridors, while rural areas have bushes, where violation of girls often takes place," she said.

Emphasising the point, conference convener Uwemedimo Esiet said, "Africa cannot achieve her full potential if we don’t ensure women and men, and boys and girls get what is meant for them."