The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) met with Esperanza Huayama, President of the Association of Forcibly Sterilised Women, from the region of Huancabamba in Piura, Peru, on 22 June, to discuss forced sterilisation in Peru and the campaign for justice and reparation.
The main points raised were as follows:
- An estimated 200,000 women and 30,000 men were forcibly sterilised by the Peruvian Government in the mid-1990s. The policy appeared to be targeted at the most vulnerable, campesino and indigenous populations. Some were coerced and some were misled. However not all women were sterilised against their will, so the Government contends that people consented to being sterilised despite an absence of records to verify who consented and who did not. The Government also contends that if any women was forcibly sterilised, rogue doctors are to blame. The available evidence shows, however, that doctors were requested to carry out sterilisations within a specific number of days.
- Illiterate women were particularly vulnerable. Esperanza is illiterate and so are most women in her community. They did not receive the necessary information to give informed consent, and Esperanza herself was lured under false pretences to the clinic. Though they still have not received much information about what the Government is doing in connection with their cases, at least some information provided more recently has been in their local language.
- There have been several investigations into forcible sterilisations, and during general elections, promises are made to the victims, but no support or compensation has been given to them nor has anyone ever been prosecuted. Though some Peruvian MPs support the victims’ campaign, they are not in the majority party in Parliament.
- A case concerning a victim who died while undergoing sterilisation was taken to the Inter-American Commission, and her family received compensation in 2001. But this is the exception. At that time the Peruvian Government said it would look into the cases more generally.
- In 2015, the matter was re-opened again and the Government decreed that a register of all women forcibly sterilised in Peru should be created. In 2016, evidence was collected from women in affected communities again. Several hundred women came forward to submit their details and undergo medical examinations. However, there has been no information forthcoming about what has been done since with the evidence collected. The press has reported that some of these women were mistreated and verbally abused when information was collected from them.
- After many years of campaigning by Amnesty Peru, Amnesty International (AI) led a campaign to push for the register to be produced, which was seen as the next step.However, 18 months after the register was set up, no one yet knows who/how many have registered.
- Although the investigation was again closed in 2016, this is not necessarily the end of the matter.
- Esperanza is visiting the UK Parliament to ask UK Parliamentarians, the UK Government and other Governments to pressure the Peruvian Government to take action to help the victims. In the first instance, it is important to find out what is happening with the register, how many people have registered and what medical and psychological support they will receive.
- In addition, this issue could be raised by Governments at Peru’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review.
- Because of her campaigning, Esperanza has received threats, and her children have suffered.
The PHRG will continue to monitor what is being done to assist and support victims of forcible sterilisation in Peru, and to raise its concerns with relevant interlocutors.
For more information please see the testimony of Esperanza on the BBC website here.