Above Photo: Protest against forced sterilizations in Peru. Iván Vicente.
The Fujimori regime forcibly sterilized thousands of people in Peru.
Thirty years later, the victims are still fighting for justice.
National Strike, Day 147
After almost six months of a coup regime that has murdered over 80 people during continuous protests against the illegal ouster of President Pedro Castillo, survivors of another case of human rights abuses may finally be seeing justice. On May 19th, former dictator Alberto Fujimori was summoned virtually from Penal de Barbadillo (where Pedro Castillo is also imprisoned on preventative detention) by the Chilean Supreme Court for the cases of forced sterilization during his regime in the 1990s. Between 1996 and 2000, approximately 270,000 women and 22,000 men were forcibly sterilized under the dictatorship’s “family planning” measures, all from poor rural indigenous areas. Fujimori, who is currently serving 25 years for crimes against humanity for the massacres in La Cantuta and Barrios Altos, was extradited from Chile to Perú in 2007 after having fled to Japan in 2000 to escape justice for crimes against humanity under his dictatorship. Because he was extradited from Chile, any additional charges would have to go through that country’s Supreme Court.
Judicial investigations against Fujimori and three of his former Ministers of Health, Eduardo Yong Motta, Marino Costa Bauer and Alejandro Aguinaga, began in March, 2021 . The summons from the Chilean Supreme Court marks the next substantive step in this decades long struggle for justice. During the video conference , Fujimori, with tubes attached to his nostrils, stated, “the accusation is completely false because what my government did was offer the population, particularly women, all modern and traditional family planning methods without exception, without preference for one or the other and with the free choice of each of (those) interested.” He continued to justify his regime’s “family planning” measures to reduce poverty and maternal mortality. Many doubt that due to Fujimori’s age and failing health he will be sentenced to more time, but survivors say they at least want a formal apology from the highest levels of government and reparations. It is highly doubtful that it will come from another coup regime, one led from behind the curtains by his daughter.
For close to 30 years, women that suffered under the regime’s forced sterilizations have clamored for justice from the Peruvian state. Many of them, only Quechua speaking, say they never gave consent to be sterilized under the government’s plan to “reduce poverty” that amounted to ethnic cleansing and a genocide . Either they did not speak Spanish and did not understand papers they signed or were forced to sign papers. Regardless they never gave consent. Under the Association of Peruvian Women Affected by Forced Sterilizations (Asociación de Mujeres Peruanas Afectadas por las Esterilizaciones Forzadas) or AMPAEF, these women have organized themselves to demand truth, justice, and reparations for what they have endured.
According to AMPAEF founder and survivor Esperanza Huayama , “Many of us made the mistake of trusting the ‘white coats’ who served us. Several of us were tied up at the time of giving birth and we didn’t even know what they had done to us. They did it to others when they went to the post with their children. There they told us that we gave birth like animals, and they asked us if we weren’t ashamed of that.” Many say they have never stopped feeling pain in their abdomens since the surgeries. For decades they have met with various government agencies and under various administrations, all with little respect and much less any concrete answers.
Much like the violence carried out currently during this dictatorship, racism played a crucial role in the forced sterilizations of poor indigenous women. Amnesty International ’s latest report on the current violence in Perú indicates racism played a major role in the violence seen since the uprising began on December 7th. Thirty years later, it is evident that Peruvian society continues to suffer from a lethal form of racism that manifests itself in the most violent ways.