U.S. Agencies Involved in Forced Sterilization of Peru's Poor
(Special to the Wanderer)
Amid ever-increasing evidence of coercive government population control efforts and sterilization campaigns in Peru, the Latin American Alliance for the Family (ALAFA) has called for the U.S. government to withdraw its financial support from so-called family planning programs which have resulted in the deaths of and injuries to Peruvian women, mostly in very poor areas of the country.
Daniel Zeidler, director of the U.S. office of the Latin American Alliance for the Family, an international advocacy organization, following its own investigation in Peru last month, said: "Peru's population program is seriously violating human rights by pressuring and coercing poor women to be sterilized.
"Reports and testimonies abound of women being offered food in exchange for agreeing to be sterilized, health workers being pressured to reach government sterilization goals, women being sterilized without their consent or .without full knowledge of the implications."
Numbers of women have died following sterilization procedures. Many women complain that after receiving a free sterilization they suffer serious medical complications, and many times they are not treated or are told by representatives of the same health system that gave them a free sterilization that they must buy expensive medications that they cannot afford.
Medical experts have stated that the deaths and complications are due primarily to the poor sanitary and medical conditions under which these operations are performed.
Feminist and campesino leaders as well as Church and human rights leaders within Peru have denounced their country's aggressive "population control" programs which target poor, illiterate, and young mothers.
Recently, the prestigious independent Peruvian human rights watchdog organization, the People's Defender, recognized the validity of the human rights abuses and called upon the government of Alberto Fujimori to immediately reform the program.
The Peruvian government has denied the existence of a sterilization campaign and has minimized the complications, but has indicated that it will make changes if necessary.
Congress is now investigating the involvement of U.S. funds in Peru's population control programs.
The chief staffer of the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, Joseph Rees, recently returned from Peru following a fact-finding mission in January. Rees met with feminist, human rights, religious, and government leaders, as well as interviewing numbers of victims. His official report to the subcommittee, issued Feb. 10th, 1998, is critical of USAID's involvement in Peru's family planning programing and recommends that the U.S. "discontinue all direct monetary assistance to the government of Peru family planning programs until it is clear that the sterilization goals and related abuses have stopped and will not resume."
The report also calls for the U.S. to "discontinue in-kind assistance" which might directly or indirectly facilitate the sterilization campaigns, and to "publicly" disassociate itself from the campaigns.
Zeidler called on all those interested in human rights to contact both Congress and the President to urge them to publicly denounce these abuses to the government of Peru and to immediately suspend U.S. population funds to that country.
Among the cases documented by ALAFA are those of:
- Juana Gutierrez Chero of La Quinta, Piura, Peru, who died at home approximately ten hours after being sterilized. According to her husband's videotaped testimony, she did not want to be sterilized, but the health workers kept coming to their house repeatedly to encourage her to undergo the procedure. Once she even hid from the workers. They came for her one day after her husband had left for work, and sterilized her. When her husband returned from work, he found her very ill and in bed; he went off to the clinic to see if he could get help, but no one was there. Juana died that night at home about 2 a.m.
- Celia Ramos Durand of La Legua, who died about two weeks after undergoing a sterilization to which both she and her husband consented after being told that it was it simple operation. According to the family, when she didn't return home from the clinic, family members went to look for her and were told that she had been transferred to a hospital. The family later learned that she had slipped into a coma as a result of the operation.
- Magna Morales Canduelas of Tocache, who died just before Christmas, 1997, 12 days after being sterilized.
- Alejandrina Tapia Cruz of Cajacay, who also died this past December one week after a sterilization operation.
- Reynalda Betalleluz of Huamanga and Josefina Vasquez Rivera of Paimas, both of whom died one day after they were sterilized.
Then there is the case of Victoria Espinoza of Piura, who was sterilized following a C-section without her consent. Her baby also died.
Peru's media have focused on these U.S. taxpayer-funded human rights atrocities, and numerous newspaper articles document the variety of human rights violations.
For example, it is common that women are offered free sterilizations, but when complications arise, these poor women are told that they must pay for medication.
In some cases, government medical workers offer women food in exchange for sterilizations. There is the case of Ernestina Sandoval Sullana, who was told by health workers that she could get free food by going to the local hospital. When she arrived, she was told she had to be sterilized in order to receive the food. She refused. She was told she could get the food this month, but that next month she should not come back unless she was sterilized.
The government is also starving children as a way to coerce their mothers to be sterilized. Maria Emilia Mulatillo of Sullana told how her two-year-old daughter was participating in a government food program, but after about two months, Maria was told that she should be sterilized. When she refused, her daughter was dropped from the government's food program.
Another tactic taken by the government is to force postpartum women to be sterilized before they leave the hospital after delivering a baby.
Blanca Zapata Aguirre of Sullana reported that after giving birth, she was told she had to use some type of contraception. She said she didn't want anything, but she was given a shot when she was sleeping. She was later told it was for birth control. (Her testimony is on video.)
Peru's government manual Reproductive Health and Family Planning 1996-2000 calls for 100% birth control usage by women who have just given birth.
Charges that health workers go house to house, and then back, and back again, to push sterilization are common.
Health workers are reportedly pressured to meet goals.
Some health workers received 15-30 soles per sterilized woman ($6.00-$12.00 U.S.), according to Giulia Tamayo of the Flora Tristan feminist organization.
In recent weeks, there have been 16 articles (from mid-December, 1997 to mid-January, 1998) in one newspaper alone, El Comercio, the country's major newspaper. Other important journals also had significant coverage.
Selected newspaper headlines from El Comercio: "Nurses Deceived Women in Order To Sterilize Them" (Jan. 26th, 1998); "Widowers Were Paid Not To Denounce Deaths of Sterilized Wives" (Jan. 24th, 1998); "Woman Hospitalized for Three Months Due to Infection Caused by Sterilization" (Dec. 24th, 1997); "They Sterilized Woman Who Was One Month Pregnant" (Dec. 23rd, 1997); "Woman Received Clothes for Her Children in Exchange for Sterilization" (Dec. 23rd, 1997); "Food Programs Used To Get Women To Be Sterilized" (Dec. 20th, 1997); "Children of Woman Who Died Following it Tubal Ligation Are in Total Abandon" (Dec. 19th, 1997): "Magna Morales Wasn't Sure, but the Donated Food Convinced Her" (Dec. 19th, 1997 Morales died 12 days after her sterilization).
International coverage of President Fujimori's U.S.-funded program has been provided by: Le Monde, Agence France Presse, The Miami Herald, Radio Nederland, and the BBC.
The official government human rights ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueble) issued a declaration published Jan. 27th., 1998 which recognized serious problems with the government sterilization program, such as: a) lack of guarantees for free choice; b) coercive tendencies in the application of the program; c) campaigns directed exclusively to sterilizations; d) established quotas of women who should use certain contraceptive measures; e) lack of follow-up after surgery. The complete report was published in El Peruano on Jan. 27th, 1998, and is available on the Internet in Spanish at http://www.ombudsman.gob.pe/html/body_01-98.html.
This item 292 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org