Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru

BBC -- 24 July 2002

More than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilised by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori, an official report has revealed.

The Health Minister, Fernando Carbone, said the government gave misleading information, offered food incentives and threatened to fine men and women if they had more children.

Poor indigenous people in rural areas were the main targets of the compulsive family planning programme until 2000, when Mr Fujimori left for Japan amid mounting corruption allegations against him.

Mr Carbone said there was evidence that Mr Fujimori and a number of high-ranking ministers could be held responsible for "incorrect procedures" and "human rights violations".

He called for a deeper investigation and promised that action would be taken against those found responsible for the forced sterilisations.

'Deceitful' campaign

Figures show that between 1996 and 2000, surgeons carried out 215,227 sterilising operations on women and 16,547 male vasectomies.

This compared to 80,385 sterilisations and 2,795 vasectomies over the previous three years.

The result has been a demographical drop in certain areas, leaving an older population and the economic disadvantages which will result from fewer people able to earn a living.

Fujimori fled to Japan after allegations of corruption

The report, by the commission investigating "voluntary contraceptive surgery" activities, concluded that there had been numerous programmes during the Fujimori regime which threatened poor women in Peru.

The operations were promoted in a "deceitful" publicity campaign of leaflets, posters and radio advertisements promising "happiness and well-being," the report said.

Investigations found that there was inadequate evaluation before surgery and little after-care.

The procedures were also found to have been negligent, with less than half being carried out with a proper anaesthetist.

The commission's report said the inadequate family planning policy had a psychological and moral impact and harmed the dignity and physical integrity of men as well as women.


Five hundred and seven people, from rural areas such as Cuzco and Ancash, gave testimonies to the commission.

Only 10% of these admitted having voluntarily agreed to the sterilisation procedure after promises of economic and health incentives such as food, operations and medicines.

Others said that if they refused they were told they would have to pay a fine and would not be able to seek medical help for their children.

The report added that most of the women interviewed said they were scared of talking because of threats made against anyone who spoke out.

The programme was found to have been designed, encouraged and monitored at the highest levels in Fujimori's government, including the president's office.

The number of operations, and pressure from government, started to fall after increasing concerns from human rights organisations within Peru and the international community.