Peru: President-Elect Promises to Investigate Forced Sterilization Cases
Thursday, June 16, 2011 9:00 AM

The new Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala, has announced that he will honor the country’s commitment to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by investigating and prosecuting those found responsible for the mass sterilization of the indigenous population conducted between 1990 and 2000.  In 2003, the Peruvian state recognized its responsibility to address the atrocities committed by Alberto Fujimori’s government, but in 2010 a representative of the Peruvian government announced to the Washington-based IACHR that the attorney general’s office had not pursued the case. 

President Fujimori disguised the ten-year sterilization campaign as an anti-poverty plan entitled the “National Program for Reproductive Health and Family Planning.” According to Health Ministry statistics, 346, 219 women and 24,535 men were sterilized between 1993 and 2000. A 2001-2003 investigation by the Peruvian Congress discovered that the government gave benefits to the participating health personnel for meeting quotas of sterilized women. The investigation also documented cases of deaths resulting from the operations performed in unhygienic conditions. Fujimori is currently in prison for corruption and human rights crimes.

President Humala has declared the practices of Alberto Fujimori as crimes against humanity, and his vow to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators brings relief and hope to many affected by Fujimori’s forced sterilization campaign. Many women continue to suffer the lasting and severe health consequences of the procedure, such as hemorrhaging and neoplasia. Ríos Lizárraga, a victim of forced sterilization, has attempted legal action in the past but has had no success. She says, “That's why, after 14 years of suffering, hearing that my case and those of other women are going to be investigated gives me some relief. I hope I'm still alive when those responsible are punished.”

Members of the human rights community were also pleased with Humala’s announcement. Jeannette Llaja, director of Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (DEMUS), a women’s rights organization that has been closely involved with legal action related to the forced sterilization, was hopeful about Humala’s statement. Llaja added that beyond the investigation and punishment of those responsible for the sterilization, collective damages should also be paid to the victims, largely made up of indigenous women from the Quechua-speaking Andean areas of Peru. DEMUS will be watching closely to ensure Humala lives up to his declarations.

Compiled From: Angel Paez, Humala Pledges Justice for Sterilisation Victims, Inter Press Service.(10 June 2011).