The Peruvian authorities must thoroughly investigate allegations that a government-run family planning scheme was used to sterilize thousands of indigenous and peasant women against their will, Amnesty International said today after an investigation into the state programme was reopened.
Government officials announced on Wednesday that Peru’s Public Prosecutor has reopened an investigation into the forced sterilizations of over 200,000 women during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s.
Indigenous and peasant women from impoverished rural areas were the main targets for the procedure, which resulted in the death of at least one woman, María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, in northern Peru in 1996.
“We urge the Peruvian authorities to ensure a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into forced sterilizations of women. All those who were forced to endure this procedure should be given full reparation – which is their entitlement under international law,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.
The practice was part of a government-sponsored family planning programme carried out during the final term of former President Fujimori, who was imprisoned in 2009 after being convicted of a series of human rights violations.
His government’s policy of demographic control specifically targeted Indigenous and peasant women from the most deprived sectors of society. Those implementing it promoted sterilization, especially for Indigenous and peasant women, in order to meet government-set quotas.
As a result, thousands of women were forced into being sterilized, in many cases without their prior consent or against their will.
International standards recognise the basic right of all women and girls to make free choices about the number, spacing and timing of their children. States are also required to provide them with access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
All people have the right to make decisions about reproduction without being subjected to discrimination, coercion or violence. The widespread and systematic practice of enforced sterilization in Peru may amount to a crime against humanity.
“Abuse of Peru’s family planning programme under Fujimori seems to have violated the reproductive rights of thousands of peasant and Indigenous women with few economic resources,” said Guadalupe Marengo.
“The victims and their families have been waiting for over a decade to know the truth about why this ever happened. Justice and reparation is the first step to ensuring that the Peru of the 21st century is serious about breaking the systematic discrimination peasant and Indigenous women have endured for decades. ”