[News] Women Sterilized Against Their Will in Peru Seek Justice, Again

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 20 12:01:10 EDT 2010


Women Sterilized Against Their Will in Peru Seek Justice, Again


Written by Ángel Páez
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 13:40
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/peru-archives-76/2738-women-sterilised-against-their-will-in-peru-seek-justice-again

(IPS) - Poor, rural, Quechua-speaking women in 
the Peruvian province of Anta who were victims of 
a forced sterilisation programme between 1996 and 
2000 have filed a new lawsuit in their continuing struggle for justice.

In May 2009, Jaime Schwartz, the public 
prosecutor investigating the case against four 
former health ministers of the Alberto Fujimori 
administration (1990-2000), decided to shelve the 
investigation. He said the case involved alleged 
crimes against the victims' life, body and 
health, and manslaughter, and that the statute of limitations had expired.

But the plaintiffs in the case had brought 
accusations of genocide and torture, which as 
crimes against humanity have no statute of 
limitation. The attorney-general's office upheld 
Schwartz's decision, overruling the complaint 
lodged against it by the victims and the human 
rights organisations providing them with legal advice.

Now the Women's Association of Forced 
Sterilisation Victims of Anta, a mountainous 
province in the southern department of Cuzco, has 
decided to combat impunity with a new strategy: 
it is presenting a new lawsuit against those 
responsible for family planning policy in the 
last four years of the Fujimori regime.

The Association's approximately 100 members are 
rural women whose testimonies have revealed the 
hidden side of the National Programme for 
Reproductive Health and Family Planning, imposed 
by coercion and deceit under the guise of an anti-poverty plan.

Sabina Huillca, 41, told IPS: "I remember 
perfectly the day they sterilised me against my 
will, because what they did to me made me suffer 
ever since. It was August 24, 1996," she said, trying to keep her voice calm.

She is one of the witnesses who will testify 
before the justice authorities against those who 
devised and implemented the programme.

"After giving birth to my fourth daughter, I went 
to the Izcuchaca health centre to see the doctor. 
He told me not to have any more children and to 
have voluntary surgical contraception (VSC)," she said.

"I told him 'No'. 'You're silly', he said, 'you 
will have more children and you won't be able to 
raise them'." While she lay resting on a bed, a 
nurse gave her an injection. "I didn't know, and 
no one told me, that it was an anaesthetic," she said.

"When I woke up, my hands and feet were tied to 
the bed with bandages. I was immobilised. I could 
see them finishing off some stitches. 'What have you done to me!'" I shouted.

"'We're nearly done,' the doctor said, and I 
started to cry. 'I don't want this, I don't want 
this!' I shouted in despair. But the damage was 
already done," said Huillca, who was 28 years old at the time.

"Nada personal" (Nothing Personal), a 1998 report 
by human rights lawyer and activist Giulia 
Tamayo, commissioned by the Peruvian section of 
the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for 
the Defence of Women's Rights (CLADEM), describes 
the coercive nature of the VSC programme.

The study documented for the first time the 
systematic use of sterilisation practices that 
particularly targeted poor, indigenous, rural women.

As a result of the publication, Tamayo received 
threats from the government. She had to leave the 
country and went to live in Spain, but has now 
returned to Peru to advise the Anta Women's Association on the new lawsuit.

The Peruvian state has admitted that 300,000 
sterilisations were performed under the VSC 
programme. The ombudsman's office has collected 
direct testimony from 2,074 women who were 
sterilised without their consent between 1996 and 2000.

"The power structures that protected the authors 
of criminal acts are still in place, guaranteeing 
their impunity up to the present day. This means 
that the rights of women who suffered from mass 
forced sterilisation continue to be violated," Tamayo told IPS.

In 2003, the Peruvian state signed a friendly 
settlement agreement before the Inter-American 
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the case of 
Mamérita Mestanza, who died in 1998 as a result 
of a poorly performed tubal ligation procedure done without her consent.

The state acknowledged its responsibility, 
recognised the abuses committed under the family 
planning programme, undertook to investigate and 
bring to trial the government officials who 
devised and implemented the campaign, and 
promised to pay reparations to Mestanza's family.

But the attorney-general's office dragged its 
feet on the promised investigation, which made 
little progress before it was shelved by the 
public prosecutor in 2009. Meanwhile Alejandro 
Aguinaga, one of the accused, a former health 
minister and personal physician to Fujimori, was 
elected to Congress in 2006 and is now vice president of the legislature.

Fujimori is in prison for 25 years, convicted of 
several charges of corruption and human rights violations.

The state's failure to carry out this part of the 
friendly agreement "is prolonging the pain of 
thousands of victims, because the accused are 
carrying on as respectable members of society 
when they really should be called to account in 
the courts," said Tamayo, who is also a 
researcher for the Spanish chapter of the global 
rights watchdog Amnesty International.

"This time, those responsible for the forced 
sterilisation plan will be sued individually for 
crimes against humanity and torture," she said.

Each of the accused will also be charged "for war 
crimes, because the coerced sterilisation was 
carried out in the context of the 1980-2000 armed 
conflict (between the military and leftwing 
guerrillas), when the armed forces were used to 
threaten and terrorise" the civilian population, Tamayo said.

Specifying international crimes (which include 
crimes against humanity, genocide, torture and 
war crimes) will allow "other countries to 
prosecute the accused, if the Peruvian state 
continues to protect them," she said.

"The IACHR has already indicated that forced 
sterilisation is a matter of international law," the rights activist said.

Tamayo said the lawsuit will be brought by the 
victims in Anta, because in that province 
"sterilisation was implemented door to door, the 
health authorities were given 'quotas' of 
sterilised women that they were required to meet, 
and all the victims belonged to the same indigenous ethnic group."

This shows that "those who designed the programme 
defined its targets with abominable precision," Tamayo said.

One of the first to take up the fight for justice 
in the case of coerced sterilisations was the now 
famous Quechua-speaking lawmaker Hilaria Supa, a 
native of Anta, one of whose daughters is a victim of the VSC programme.

"Since the operation, to this day, I have 
suffered because of what was done to me by 
force," said Huillca, who lives in the rural 
village of Huayllaccocha, where several other 
cases of forced sterilisation have been documented.

"They damaged me as a woman. After that I was not 
able to pick up my small children, or work in the 
fields, which our livelihood depends on. I can't 
even cook, because I get terrible pains," she 
said, describing little-known consequences borne by the victims.

"I have difficulty walking; my life is full of 
suffering. Furthermore, in the community I am 
treated as second-rate, because in the village a 
woman who does not work is very much looked down 
on," she continued, no longer able to hide her sadness.

"The worst of it all is that one of the doctors 
who damaged me for life is still working in the 
Izcuchaca health centre," she said. "Every time I 
see him I feel furious, because nothing has happened to him."





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