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Women's reproductive rights under attack in Peru.

Following the release of a congressional report exposing forced sterilisations in Peru during the Fujimori presidency, (1) conservative officials in the Peruvian government are seeking to ban sterilisation, the fourth most popular birth control method in the country, which has only been legal since 1995 under Fujimori. The report itself could be viewed as a thinly-veiled attempt to generate opposition against sterilisation itself. The Minister of Health, Fernando Carbone, claimed that 200,000 women were sterilised without their consent from 1996 to 2000. However, most sources, including official Ministry records, the national ombudsman's office and women's groups, recognise 450-500 cases. Advocates of a ban on sterilisation, such as congressman Hector Chavez, are accusing Fujimort of genocide, claiming that indigenous Andean women were the primary targets, even though most data show that the programme was carried out nationwide. It is believed that among the leaders of this campaign are individuals associated with the Roman Catholic church and other conservative bodies. Chavez has worked with a US-based anti-abortion group, and Carbone with a Peruvian anti-abortion organisation with links to Human Life International, another US-based anti-abortion group. A high-ranking official of the Catholic church in Peru has publicly denounced emergency contraception as a crime, while Chavez has accused UNFPA and USAID of complicity in the forced sterilisations.

There is evidence that during Fujimori's rule, some state-sponsored health care providers coerced women into sterilisations with threats and insults, bribed them with money and food, or failed to provide accurate information or adequate care. These violations were well documented by women's groups, and attempts have been made to seek compensation for the women, some of whom died as a result of poor treatment. Few perpetrators have been brought to court, however, and virtually none of the women or their families have received any form of compensation as yet. Women's groups are concerned that if the Peruvian government is using these violations as a tactic to diminish women's contraception options, low-income and indigenous women's rights will be violated for a second time. Reproductive choices are already limited in Peru, with conscience clauses allowing physicians to opt out of giving care they deem offensive, including emergency contraception and post-abortion care. Abortion is illegal in Peru except when the life or health of the woman is at risk and physicians in Peru are required by law to report any woman they suspect of having had an abortion to the police. (1)

(1.) Loder A. Peru looks to ban popular birth control method. <> 30 August 2002.
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Title Annotation:Law and Policy
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Geographic Code:3PERU
Date:May 1, 2003
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