Shortly after his 1996 re-election, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori initiated an ambitious program of population control, featuring “sex education” and sterilization in the heavily Roman Catholic country. Critics of the program see population control as a trade-off with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and foreign governments for much-needed economic aid.

American G. Joseph Rees, a Congressional committee staff aide, went to Peru to investigate charges of human-rights abuses stemming from the program. He concluded the results of the Festivales de Ligaduras (Ligation Fairs) and Festivales de Vasectomias (Vasectomy Fairs) are that “women have been sterilized against their will and-or without their knowledge, that women have suffered from inadequate medical care during and after sterilization, and that the government has put pressure on doctors to meet rigid quotas for sterilizations.”

“It is well known,” Rees says, “that every hospital and medical post has a particular quota of sterilizations to perform.” To meet quotas, the “poorly paid health workers were paid a bonus” for each woman given a tubal ligation.

Offered bribes

Furthermore, to “persuade” women to consent, researcher Giulia Tamayo found they were offered bribes in food and money, and threatened with the withdrawal of welfare payments. Also, women who consented but changed their minds were put to sleep and sterilized.

Tamayo’s report, “Human rights report on surgical sterilization in Peru,” confirmed 150 cases of “death, post-operative complications, forced sterilizations, and practices lacking in informed consent.”

In March, Catholic World Report quoted an investigation, that covered only 30 per cent of Peru, indicating 18 women died, 180 suffered serious injury, and at least 1,000 were forcibly sterilized, as a result of the government’s population-control program.

It is likely that these figures include only women who are aware of what was done to them, and who have had the courage to speak out.

Rees conducted his study to determine if U.S. policy, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, was at all culpable for the atrocities in Peru. While his report does not condemn AID, he says the organization should dissociate itself from foreign assistance that harms women, and discontinue support for population-control programs.

As reported in the July issue of The Interim, Fujimori’s program was discontinued because of opposition from religious leaders and pro-life and human-rights activists.