President Ollanta Humala created Friday an official record for the victims of the 1990s forced sterilization, a long-standing demand from human rights organizations.
Humala presented the executive order as a measure of social justice that will finally determine how many women were victims of the sterilization policy of former dictator Alferto Fujimori (1990-2000). Women will now be able to come forward and request to have their case officially recognized without having to go through the court system.
Speaking on public television, Humala decried the sterilization campaign as a violation of human rights, noting that its stated aim of “reducing poverty” was achieved “by reducing the poor before they would be born.” That, he said, is something of which the country should be ashamed.
“Never again in Peru can we implement a policy of fighting poverty by violating the reproductive rights of poor families,” he added.
According to the official estimate, over 270,000 women – most of them indigenous living in poor and rural areas – were forcefully sterilized between 1996 and 2000.
Humala picked up the struggle for justice in these cases during his presidential bid, when he was running against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former dictator. Many believed that such a move gave him the edge to win the election in the second round, although little has been done so far to bring justice to the victims.
Fujimori has been imprisoned since 2007 over corruption and human rights abuses. He has claimed that the women were voluntarily sterilized.
According to human rights groups and the testimonies they gathered, the program was implemented nationally but the methods were not systematic. Sometimes, the signature of the victim’s relatives was used to go ahead with the process without consent. In other cases, the victims were operated on secretly after giving birth. However, the government gave sterilization quotas and medical personnel were required to comply.
Human rights organizations have appealed a ruling issued in Jan. 2014 that found there was not enough evidence to maintain an investigation into Fujimori’s role in the sterilization campaign. In May 2015, Peruvian judicial authorities granted the request to reopen the case.