Forced Sterilization

During his presidency, Fujimori put in place a genocidal program of forced sterilizations against indigenous people in the name of a “public health plan”. Here is the story by the victims.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Keiko Fujimori Presidential Candidate: “The objective of this reproductive health program was to provide information to women that let them decide when and how many kids they would have. It was free, and allowed more than 850 families access to the information and the methods used for it. Out of those who used the program, 15% opted for surgery. The ombudsman revealed that there have been 150 complaints and various investigations carried out by governments; and that these cases pointed the finger at the doctors for not following the established protocols. I condemn the attitude of these irresponsible doctors. And as a mother of two girls, I empathize with these women.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Protester: “No to Keiko! Not here and never! No to Keiko!”

“We are the daughters of the peasants that you couldn’t sterilize!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Hilaria Supa, MP at Andean Parliamentarian: “In our culture the woman must be able to produce like the land. We are connected to the land; the land produces and the woman also produces.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Inés Condormi, President of AMAEF: “I woke up and they told me: ‘You are fine now. You just have to change and you have to go. You no longer can have any children and you will continue being young and your husband will keep loving you, you won’t have children. It was painful, but they said it’s nothing serious; it won’t harm you. Get changed and go.’ ”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Julia Urrunaga, Journalist: “It was such an important issue that it was very tough to ignore, and finally, I got in touch with a woman in one of these organizations and that was Julia Tamayo. After talking for more than two hours, she understood my point: That this was not an attack against the right to family planning, but an attack against the human rights of the women - rights that are being violated and acts that are taken against your will and, to make it worse, these acts were carried out in a way that could cost you your life.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Silvio Campana, Ombudsman in Cuzco: “At that point, Hilaria Supa, a peasant leader and activist, appeared in my office and let me know that she also had knowledge of similar cases in the Cuzco zone and similar cases also began to appear in other parts of the country: in Huancavelica and in Puno. About the cases in Cuzco, Hilaria Supa pointed out that female peasants in the Anta zone had become victims of forced sterilizations.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Ruth Súniga Caceres, President of Anta Women Association: “They said to me, ‘Hey, come inside’. They took me in, pulling my hand and quickly took off my clothes. I said, ‘Doctor, what are you going to do? You told me that you were going to check on my baby’ - It was supposed to be only that. And the doc said, ‘No, you know what? They are going to do a little surgery on you and no more’. And I said, ‘Doctor, you didn’t bring me here for this. You told me that my baby needed her vaccine’. And from that point on they didn’t even let me talk and put me on the stretcher.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisa Lonkoke, Victim of Forced Sterilization: “I didn’t want to be in that place against my will. My husband wasn’t there and didn’t even know what they were going to do to me. I paid attention to the woman that went into the operating room before me and heard many voices complaining because of the pain and the screams of women. I realized that there were women thrown out in the corridor. I told my companions that I didn’t have to do that stuff and then got out of the place and walked to the other side of the street. One of the staff came for me and forcibly took me back and made me go into the operating room.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Josefa Quispe, Victim of Forced Sterilization: “They took us to the second floor and made us watch a movie so we would relax. There was a little window, and we wanted to escape. From that window we saw that they were carrying a dead woman on a stretcher. They heard us and locked us up in the room.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Alejandra Ballón, Investigator and Artist: “For a lot of them that was their first trip to a hospital. The State never had offered them medical services before and when it did it was to forcibly sterilize them against their will, and there was no post-surgery attention given to them.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Julia Urrunaga, Journalist: “And after that we visited the rural medical posts in some of the areas and, as journalists, we went and checked on the documents. We found information on so-called tubal ligations. Also, there was info on how many women the staff had to service in order to justify their jobs.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Ruth Súniga, Women’s Association of Anta: “They began to cut me and I felt pain and screamed. I told the doctor that it hurt and he told me: ‘You have to endure it. It’s just a little surgery, nothing more.’ My hand wasn’t restrained and so was free to move, which let me push on the stretcher and get up and I could see that they had cut me open a lot, as much as the mouth of a baby, and that I was bleeding. When this happened, the doctor instructed them to hold me down. ”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Josefa Quispe, Victim of Forced Sterilization: “After a while they took me into a room in which there were lots of women. They were screaming: ‘Ah, ah, it hurts’… they were calling out to their children. As I lay unconscious, four nurses took me and put me on the ground. There were lots of women on the ground.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Silvio Campana, Ombudsman in Cuzco: “Women tell you that they have headaches. The sterilizations, leaving aside the obvious physical effects, unbalance the hormones. At first they don’t since they are young and are not in the pre-menopausal phase. Now, some years have passed and the consequences are severe.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Felicitas Chaca, Victim of Forced Sterilization: “Yes, damn the moment that they did this to me. Was it I who asked for this? My sister has 11 daughters and is healthy and today has no issues. How will I be in the menopause phase? She has no issues, is healthy and even walks normally after having so many children.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Felipa Cusi, Victim of Forced Sterilization:“Now I can’t do anything. I feel bad, my head and back ache. I can’t endure much sunlight. I am forgetful; I forget everything I do. My stomach hurts. I often feel dizzy. My life is in jeopardy.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Alejandra Ballon,: “As it was a quasi-clandestine program, when you implement a legal program there are methods and protocols to verify if the program has been fulfilled and executed. This program didn’t have any of these legal mechanisms. If they asked them for proof then the medics would just take photos of places and of the patients. They themselves would take the photos and send them to the authorities in charge. Because of that, there were interventions by the armed forces: they were the ones who gave the stretchers, the scalpels; helped with the transport; and also there were medics from the armed forces that came to take part in that program.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Solari, Peruvian Health Minister: “The documents show that they trained people to do exactly those kinds of surgeries. They weren’t gynecologists with 10 to 15 years of experience. It’s obvious that sooner than later this was going to be big news in the media. It was just a matter of time.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Julia Urrunaga, Journalist: “There was a case in Guatará, in Ayacucho, where there was a festival and the doctors left. At that same time there was a woman who was complaining about colic and pain. Also, the anesthetics drugs were wearing off and no one was there to tend to her and finally the pain became too much to bear and so they put her in an ambulance, but she died there. The reason she died was because instead of binding her tubes, they had bound her intestines.

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Solari, Peruvian Health Minister:“The truth is cruel: Regarding the first 100,000 sterilizations, the Ministry could not show any evidence that neither those nor the forthcoming 200,000 women gave their consent to the procedure. It finally blew up and the Ministry had to change its internal rules and they began to operate with informed consent.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Julio Arbizu, Lawyer for Victims of Sterilizations: “This is a case that is many years old. I began to investigate it in 2000 and 2001, after the fall of Alberto Fujimori’s regime, there finally began investigations about the issue. One of these was in the Congress and this led to accusations of genocide against the government – which were not persecuted due to a lack of evidence.

Later in 2012, the case accusing the government of genocide was reopened in great part due to the understandings reached between the victims and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Images of the relatives of Mamerita Mestanza). This forced the State to begin an investigation to hold accountable all the murderers, both perpetrator and mastermind. During the investigation, the prosecutor decided to close the part that was about the intellectual authors of the genocide and carry on with the judicial process of some of the lesser perpetrators.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Ana Maria Vidal, National Coordinating Office for Human Rights: “Even though there are cases in which they are processing the medics who carried out the acts, never have those who orchestrated it been subjected to investigation and never have they had their cases taken to the judiciary. The cases have never made it out of the attorney’s office.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Julio Arbizu, Lawyer for Victims of Sterilizations: “There are more than 175 volumes filled with cases, the product of the investigations from the year 2001 to this day. All phases of the investigations are contained within these 175 volumes.

Some years ago there were efforts to restudy the information in those volumes and there has been a general consensus that these weren’t isolated events and that they were part of a governmental plan that had a specific goals in mind: to sterilize the Quechua-speaking women; to sterilize the indigenous women - all with the intention of fighting poverty through controlling the reproduction rate among the poor. We have found information that asserts that there was a chain of command and we can confirm that this chain of command had Fujimori, his health ministers and medical personnel involved.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Ana Maria Vidal, National Coordinating Office for Human Rights: “In February of this year, the prosecutor Marcelita Gutiérrez had to rule whether or not this case would go to the judiciary. She had at her disposal a large amount of information that helped her decide whether or not it was genocide.

Nevertheless, she decided to extend the investigations for a further five months, that is, 150 days stretching from February until the end of the second round of the presidential elections in which Keiko Fujimori - daughter of Alberto Fujimori - took part as a candidate. She, being the daughter of the mastermind that implemented this policy that, according to human rights organizations governing the case, was a state policy and considered a crime against humanity.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Ysabel Cedano, Director of DEMUS: “The main problem is that the ‘Fujimor-ism’ loyalty has connections inside the judiciary.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pao Ugaz, Journalist: “In the public sphere the Fujimor-ism is strong. In this campaign, they gave away tapers with notebooks for the children.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Hilaria Supa, Andean Parliamentarian: “It would be very dangerous if Fujimori gains the majority in the Congress since it would let them do whatever they want. There would be no justice, no equilibrium of power. They will pass any law that would allow them to prosecute anyone that protests.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Alejandra Ballon:“Without a solution to this, it becomes very plausible that there could be a repetition of these events, though perhaps in another form.

And it does continue today: even though now we don’t have forced sterilizations instead we have thousands of clandestine abortions every day; we have the highest rate of sexual violations in Latin America. If you don’t fix it, then it will show itself in other parts of the society.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Ana Maria Vidal, National Coordinating Office for Human Rights: “Many times when we interviewed the prosecutors or the police they would tell us the following: ‘Doctor, you should understand that you belong to an inferior culture’. This is a prevalent idea in Peru where they think that poor people have inferior culture and because of that, you don’t have the right to decide about your body.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Silvio Campana, Ombudsman in Cuzco: “I think it’s an argument that is used a lot, that isn’t necessarily true, but it is backed by an ideology. The ideology that where there are poor, those poor people prevent the development of the country because the country now has to take care of its poor. Then you have to reduce poverty and if you can’t do that with inclusive programs, the question becomes: how would you do it? With a planification system? It is a perverse system.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Hilaria Supa, Andean Parliamentarian: “I had to work since I was a kid. I served a landowner. I had to eat in a corner when they finished eating and they would violate the women that were pretty. And my granddad used to say to me: ‘When you grow up, don’t let this stuff happen in our village.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Paula Huamán, Victims of Sterilizations: “We already asked the government for help, but for now there is no solution. Is it true? Every year they merely file our complaints… This is what Hilaria tells us. For now, there is no justice for us.”

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