Esperanza Huayama is fighting since more than 20 years ago for the 300.000 indigenous women sterilized in force under the government of President Alberto Fujimori through the Program of Family and Reproductive Planning, directly designed to reduce the population and the birth control of indigenous women, and the poor and illiterate ones. Esperanza is a victim of forced sterilization and President of the Women’s Association of the Province of Huancabamba (AMHBA), from which denounces this violation of human rights and a crime against humanity. Some women were killed in the intervention, others lost their babies while pregnant, and many still die today from infections.
“I could not read or write. In 1996, a doctor and a nurse appeared in my hamlet of Rodeopampa. The women, we were told we had to go down to Huancabamba to vaccinate our children. And in the hospital, that it was better to do us the [de trompes] ligation to not to have more children. They said it was a government order. They did to me some tests and said that I everything was fine. They put me anesthesia and transferred me to a room to operate me. After a while, I heard a nurse saying: ‘The lady was pregnant!’.
Apparently, I was 3 months pregnant, but I had not noticed. I begged the doctor not to do the surgery, that I preferred to have my son, but he ignored me. He did me a ligation of one of the fallopian tubes. I continued the pregnancy to eight months, with many complications, until I gave birth. But the baby was already dead.” This is the hard story of Esperanza Huayama, collected by the journalist Sara Cuentas a couple of years ago in an article in “El País”.
Huayama was one of the victims of the forced sterilization program promoted by the government of Alberto Fujimori in Peru, during the second half of the nineties. And it was also, then, a courageous voice that repeatedly denounced this serious violation of human rights. For over 10 years Esperanza holds leadership positions in AMHBA, institution that she presides since over a year ago. Within the AMHBA, Esperanza actively participates in the Committee of human rights of women sterilized in Huancabamba. Convinced that the organization of women is key to defend their rights, it is seen as one of the challenges of the near future the consolidation and strengthening of the “National Association of Peruvian Women Affected by Forced Sterilizations”.
What is the situation of women forcibly sterilized during the government of Alberto Fujimori?
We are unwell, we have a lot of discomfort and we suffer permanent pain in our bellies. Most of them have been abandoned by their partners, because we can no longer have sex like before. Many have had cancer in the area where we were operated on, others have already died. We cannot work as before, and therefore we have become poorer. Our sons and daughters have migrated to the big cities to help us with the economy.
What progress has been made in the areas of truth, justice and reparation?
In relation to the truth, the forced sterilizations were denounced by our friend Giulia Tamayo and by several organizations and entities in the country. But on the part of the Peruvian State, we still hope that a Truth Commission will be created to investigate what really happened and who were to blame. In terms of justice, we are waiting for prosecutor Marcelita Gutiérrez to pronounce on the responsibility of former president Alberto Fujimori and former ministers Eduardo Yong Motta, Marino Costa and Alejandro Aguinaga. The investigation was opened 14 years ago and is still unsolved.*
For the repair, the government of Ollanta Humala has taken a first step. Symbolic, though. A unique register of victims (Reviesfo) has been created to document all cases of women who were victims of forced sterilization in Peru. We have been given, after a personal interview with each affected person, a file that recognizes us as victims. This will allow us to demand more forcefully that they repair us. In addition, with this file we have access to priority treatment in the Comprehensive Health Insurance, managed by the Ministry of Health. We also have the right to care in Emergency Centers for Women, of the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations. It is not a repair, but a recognition.
*The prosecutor handed down a sentence in July and announced the filing of the complaint. The AMHBA has issued a statement of rejection against the filing and impunity of the perpetrators of the crime against humanity.