Forced sterilisations take centre stage

13 December 2015

To coincide with Human Rights Day on 10 December, several organisations of women affected by forced sterilisation during the Fujimori regime came to Lima for a two-day event designed to highlight their plight. Women from Huancabamba in the highlands of Piura, from the provinces of Chumbivilcas in Cuzco and Independencia in Ayacucho came together to meet and discuss how best to promote their campaign.

Three days before, on 7 December, the Ministry of Justice had published the regulations on how the national register of victims will work. It transpired that official policy was going to be much more limited in scope than previously thought, only providing some psychological and medical support and limiting legal aid to cases where prosecution takes place. The register recognises no wrong-doing on the part of the Peruvian state and provides no real form of redress. In sum, it is a very watered down version of what had been promised in the original decree.

The meeting concluded that although this was a feeble response, it was a step in the right direction. Amnesty International and the GREF, the group that supports these women’s organisations from within the National Coalition for Human Rights, agreed to continue working with the women's groups in pushing the government to implement the decree and prosecute those responsible.

The meeting also coincided with the launch of the Quipu project on 10 December. Quipu is a digital platform where those who suffered forced sterilisation can use the telephone to tell their stories in either Spanish or Quechua. The stories can then be accessed via the web and responses left that the women can listen to by phone.

Quipu is a project put together by Chaka Studios and academics from the University of Bristol. Present at the launch were three representatives of the women's organisations, Félix Reátegui from the Catholic University’s Human Rights Institute, Ana María from the GREF, Natalia Sobrevilla Péres from the Peru Support Group, and Rosemarie Lerner who has designed and created the Quipu project.

The sterilisation issue remains a hot topic in the election campaign. Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori, was first lady at the time the sterilisation campaign took place. Three months ago, speaking at Harvard University, she said that some ‘excesses’ had been committed, blaming the doctors concerned. Representatives of the medical profession have complained saying they were just following orders, and documents have since emerged showing how some doctors refused to obey as they considered sterilising between 20 and 60 women a day to be dangerous.

Much still needs to be done for these women to achieve justice and redress, but events this week have helped show they are not fighting alone.

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