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Involuntary sterilization threatens Peru women

Thu, Oct 11, 2012

In 1996, Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chavez, a 33-year-old Peruvian mother of seven, was threatened with imprisonment if she did not comply with the government policy of undergoing sterilization. After suffering post-operative complications for which she was refused treatment, Chavez died nine days later.
After years of legal proceedings in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in 2003 the Peruvian government finally acknowledged international legal responsibility for its actions.

Chavez’s story is not the only case in which national law has forced women to undergo involuntary sterilization. Although many women’s and disability rights organizations and other human rights bodies have condemned coercive sterilization, thousands of women and girls worldwide are still denied the right to make decisions about their own reproduction.

Involuntary sterilization, an operation which, without an individual’s consent, permanently ends his or her ability to reproduce, has occurred in regions with many different cultural backgrounds, ranging from the United States and Switzerland to Japan, China, Puerto Rico, Brazil and others.

The operation “has historically targeted…marginalized groups of women such as women with disabilities, women from ethnic minorities, indigenous women, low-income women and women living with HIV,” said Luisa Cabal, vice president of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, at a side event organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the U.N. headquarters on September 13.

WHO estimates that over a billion people in the world, or approximately 15 percent of the global population, have disabilities. According to a WHO report, disabled women are particularly vulnerable to involuntary sterilization.

By Gosia Stawecka
International Press Service

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