At the young age of 32, Victoria Vigo woke up from an emergency c-section in a Peruvian hospital only for her life to change forever in a horrible way. She went to see the doctor after feeling sick at 32-weeks into her pregnancy, after which she ended up in an accident that landed her in the hospital. The hospital decided to perform an emergency C-section, which her baby did not survive.
Crippling sadness filled her over the loss of her child, but she found some comfort in the fact that she was young enough to have the chance for more children in her future. Unfortunately for her, she was sterilized at the hospital without her permission, and she can never have children again. Her situation is not unique. This kind of behaviour from doctors is common in Peru, where doctors often make long-term decisions without the patient’s permission.
Vigo is just one of around 300,000 people estimated to have been sterilised against their will in Peru between 1996 and 2000, when then-president Alberto Fujimori embarked on a family planning programme known as Voluntary Surgical Contraception, part of an anti-poverty drive. In 1997, Vigo began her fightback against the authorities.
“It wasn’t just about my rights, I soon realised that this was part of a national policy and there were many other women involved,” she says. “This was going on all over Peru with doctors making decisions without properly consulting the women involved.”
After years of legal disputes Vigo eventually won her case and was awarded damages of approximately £2,000 in 2003. She is the only person in Peru who has received any form of compensation after being forcibly sterilised. The men and women targeted under the sterilisation programme were usually poor, indigenous Quechua-speakers, many of whom signed a piece of paper written in Spanish that they didn’t understand.