Peru Admits Responsibility for its Forced Sterilization Policies
(Updated 3.18.21) In the first case on reproductive rights admitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Peru admitted responsibility for the forced sterilization of María Mamérita Mestanza, and her death following inadequate care. It agreed to implement recommendations made by Peru’s Human Rights Ombudsman concerning forced sterilization of women, particularly in marginalized and Indigenous communities. Peru agreed to compensate the victims’ family members and to change its laws and policies on reproductive health and family planning, eliminating discrimination and respecting women’s autonomy.
For two years, Peruvian public health officials threatened Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chávez with criminal sanctions if she did not undergo sterilization surgery. After several intimidating visits to her home and harassment by public health officials, Mamérita Mestanza Chevez accepted, under coercion, to undergo a tubal ligation. She was never examined prior to the procedure and she did not receive medical assistance or information about the consequences and risks of the procedure. Following the procedure, she developed complications and was refused medical treatment. She died at home nine days later.
After domestic legal remedies failed, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM),Estudio para la Defensa de la Mujer (DEMUS) and the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 1999 and were later joined by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
In 2002, the Peruvian government agreed in principle to settle the case. An agreement was signed in 2003 in which the government acknowledged international legal responsibility, agreed to compensate Mestanza’s surviving husband and children, and agreed to modify and implement recommendations made by Peru’s Human Rights Ombudsman concerning sterilization procedures in Peru’s government facilities. The government agreed to modify discriminatory legislation and policies including those that fail to ensure women’s rights as autonomous decision-makers.
Plaintiff(s): Maria Mestanza
Center Attorney(s): Luisa Cabal and Lilian Sepúlveda
Partners: CLADEM, CEJIL, DEMUS, APRODEH
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