Peruvian Authorities Reopen Forced Sterilization Cases

November 27, 2011

Peru

PERU.— Peru’s chief prosecutor has relaunched a criminal investigation into the forced sterilizations of thousands of women during the 1990-2000 government of Alberto Fujimori.

The women were predominantly from rural areas, were poor, illiterate and Quechua-speaking.

A practice that was once official state policy now constitutes a crime against humanity.

Initially, the program was well received, with USAID, the United State’s international aid agency, donating $35 million to the effort.

The goal of the program was to reduce poverty by lowering the birth rate among the poor.”

Alejandra Cardenas of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, explained that no government has practiced forced sterilization as state policy since Nazi Germany.

The Fujimori administration has denied that women were forced to undergo sterilization.

Officials claimed women signed consent forms, many women however said they were deceived or threatened.

One victim, Victoria Vigo, explained that her fallopian tubes were severed without her knowledge during a Caesarian procedure in 1996. Vigo discovered what had occurred only after overhearing a conversation between two doctors.

“He had even omitted it from my clinical notes. He knew what he was doing. I could have gone on trying for years and years to have another child without even knowing that I had been sterilized. I felt mutilated, completely violated. What kind of values does a person like that have?”

Mamerita Mestanza, a 33-year-old mother of seven died in 1996 after being pressured into tubal ligation surgery.

“Mestanza was told that a law had been passed and that she and her husband were going to be fined or imprisoned because they had (more than) five kids already,” said Cardenas.

Mestanza signed a consent form and went through with the operation. A few days later Mamerita returned to the clinic complaining of internal bleeding, she died shortly afterwards.

In 2003, Peru agreed to pay Mestanza’s relatives up to $100,000 and to provide her children with free education and other benefits.

Six years later, the chief prosecutor’s office ruled that neither the Mestanza case or the 2,000 other cases of forced sterilization constituted a severe violation of human rights.

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