After nearly eighteen years on and off the political agenda, the issue of the forced sterilisation of women has returned as a central topic of discussion in recent weeks. This is in part to due to the reopening of the judicial investigation on the matter, but there is also widespread interest in the role played by former president Alberto Fujimori and his advisers in designing and carrying out a campaign that resulted in some 300,000 women being sterilised, many without consent. Some died in botched operations, other were left with chronic pain. The current investigation aims to provide redress to the women concerned and to identify those responsible. It was mandated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Court (IACHR) based in Costa Rica.
On 7 July victim organisations from Cuzco and Piura were invited by Congress to a session to discuss the judicial process and to enable them to present evidence, this time to the legislative power. Many of those involved made representations in Quechua, recounting the painful experiences they lived through and the way in which such sterilisation campaigns continue to blight their lives. One of the demands that elicits much support is the creation of a complete register of victims’ names. Ana María Vidal, from the victims’ association Grupo de Reparación a Víctimas de Esterilización Forzada (GREF), asked for the Ministry of Health to release all official records on the subject, to help ensure that the victims are at least identified.
Many analysts believe that Keiko Fujimori, Fujimori’s daughter, was defeated in the 2011 election campaign largely because she was unable to explain her father’s policy on sterilisation, or to distance herself from those ministers implicated who are now under investigation. Keiko Fujimori leads the polls for next year’s presidential election.
On 13 July, Diario 16 published a dossier on the sterilisations including previously little-known photographic evidence of the dire conditions under which sterilisations were carried out. The paper presents some evidence that Alberto Fujimori had full knowledge about what was going on.
More intriguingly, there was also the attempt by Diario 16 to link another presidential candidate in the upcoming election, Alan García, with the sterilisation programme. The paper cites testimony by Congresswoman Hilaria Supa who brought to Congress twelve of the sterilised women from Cuzco who are seeking justice. Supa claims to have seen a plan prepared by the military in 1985, when García was president for the first time, aiming to put a limit on the demographic growth of indigenous peoples in Peru. However, it is still unlikely that Garcia was linked to the process in any overt way.
As the presidential campaign grows closer, the forced sterilisations will continue to be in the news. Yet, it remains doubtful whether this latest turn of events will bring justice any closer for the women who were its victims.