The forced sterilization of 300,000 mostly indigenous women in Peru and the reparations still owed them are the subjects of a recently released documentary, “Scars of Deception”, that debuted in Lima on Saturday, November 22 as part of a women’s rights conference.
The women, and over 20,000 men, were involved with the National Reproductive Health and Family Planning Program created by the administration of former President Alberto Fujimori and put into place between 1996 – 2000. (In 2009, Fujimori was found guilty of grave human rights violations and sentenced to 25 years in prison – the maximum penalty allowed by Peruvian law. The charges did not address the consequences of his reproductive health program.)
Later investigations showed that the victims were tricked or coerced into undergoing the surgical procedure, and according to the film’s producers 18 people have since died from complications.
The majority of the women were Quechua, Aymara, Shipiba or Ashaninkas people.
“Scars of Deception” brings together the stories of 15 sterilization victims from the provinces of Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica y Piura and describes the official investigation as it stands and the public promises for reparations that have not materialized yet.
“As of now, the victims have not received any acknowledgment or any reparations,” said the film’s Director Magali Zevallos in reference to the current President Ollanta Humala who promised in 2012 to help the affected persons. Zevallos pointed out that only 83 cases have been registered with the government so far.
She also noted that some of the most alarming cases involved women from the town of Independence in the heavily indigenous Ayacucho province.
“Most of the testimonies gathered in that Andean locale had been from women who were tortured during the internal armed conflict,” Zevallos said regarding the long and violent struggle between the Shining Path guerrillas and Peruvian military.
“They were tortured by the armed forces and on top of that they were sterilized under a national program and even now they do not receive any recognition nor any reparation,” she asserted at the 13th Annual Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter, which drew 1,500 women from several countries.
The film was produced by Hyperactive Communications (Hiperactiva Comunicaciones) with support from the Study for the Defense of the Rights of Women (known as DEMUS in Peru) and the Flora Tristan Peruvian Woman’s Center. DEMUS has been active in advocating for the victims in the last decade.
In their ending Declaration, the activists at the Encounter stated that “we will continue the struggle against all forms of violence but we urge justice before all these forced sterilizations.”