In the late 1990s around 300,000 Peruvian women, mostly Quechua peasants in the Andes, were forcibly sterilized by the government. This crime against humanity occurred after President Fujimori liberalized Peru’s strict contraception laws to let women have their tubes tied without their husband’s permission. This was a victory for Peruvian feminists but little did they know that Fujimori would take advantage of the new law to sterilize Indigenous women against their will.

Under the ironically-named Voluntary Surgical Contraception Program launched by the Government Health Service, doctors were assigned monthly sterilization quotas and health workers were trained to go from door to door to coax and capture as many women as possible. Since most of the targeted women didn’t speak Spanish, they didn’t understand what was going on at the time. As well suffering both psychological and physical trauma, some died and many suffered adverse health effects following the procedure, known as ligaduras in Spanish.

Although the story took a while go public, women’s rights organizations have been campaigning for justice ever since. Supported by numerous reports and victim testimonies, the women’s movement campaigned for Fujimori to stand trial for the crime. Despite the women’s best efforts, the case was dropped. Fujimori, in prison since 2007 for corruption and human rights abuses, has maintained the sterilizations were voluntary. Two decades on, the physical and mental scars still remain and the women’s rights groups press on with the fight for justice.
Feb 8, 2016
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