In May, journalists Celine Klint and Anne Pilegaard Petersen revealed in a podcast that Danish medical authorities had placed contraceptive intrauterine devices (IUDs) in the wombs of 4,500 Greenlandic women and girls, often without their informed consent, in order to stop pregnancies and reduce the population. growth in the 1960s and 1970s.
Trauma therapist Naja Lyberth speaking to Justiceinfo reported that she was only fourteen when school doctors ordered her and thousands of Inuit girls to have IUDs inserted. Neither Naja nor her parents gave anyone permission for the procedure. “They never presented it as a choice.”
Naja knows many Greenlandic women who have suffered serious complications from IUDs, such as menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding, crippling stomach pain and uterine infections. Worse still, the risk of women becoming infertile increases exponentially when IUDs are inserted at a young age. Some of the Inuit girls were as young as twelve when they received an IUD and only found out much later in life that they were therefore unable to have children.
Historian Molly Geidel said that various studies published in the early 1960s demonstrated that IUDs caused considerable side effects. Nevertheless, so-called population “experts” and think tanks such as the Ford Foundation have continued to promote the claimed benefits of mass IUD implantations. Influential gynecologists such as Alan Guttmacher often downplayed the need for follow-up exams, suppressed embarrassing findings, and ignored alternative birth control methods. The conclusion was simple, “…once the fucking thing is in place, the patient can’t change her mind.”
Convinced that Greenlandic women were constitutionally unable to take birth control pills, Danish doctors secretly inserted IUDs without informing their patients. A source told Danish reporters doctors joked that Inuit women wanted treatment for swollen fingers, only to have them leave the clinic with an IUD.
These revelations are troubling but not surprising. At 20e century. Denmark became the first country in Europe to pass sterilization laws in 1929, which inspired Adolf Hitler and, according to Anne Sørensen, paved the way for the sterilization of around 13,000 “abnormal” Danes, including the vast majority were mentally handicapped, alcoholics or libertine women.
A lingering colonial mindset has conditioned Danish authorities, among other European-born elites throughout the Western Hemisphere, to view Indigenous peoples as “subnormal” subjects who should not be allowed to be more numerous than white populations.
In the United States, Jane Lawrence estimates that between 1970 and 1976, 25 to 50% of Native American women were sterilized, often without their knowledge. Many Indian Health Service (IHS) physicians were convinced that the poor “wellness looters,” particularly among the Native American, African American, and Puerto Rican minorities, lacked the responsible behavior or intellectual acumen necessary to use safer forms of birth control.
Baseless and racist assumptions have had tragic consequences. Two fifteen-year-old Native American girls went to the hospital one day for tonsillectomies, only to come away with tubal ligations. A doctor has dismissed an Indian woman’s persistent migraines as just a ‘feminine problem’, suggesting that she undergo a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). It turned out that she had a brain tumor.
Sally Torpy discovered that President Jimmy Carter was reimbursing hospitals for 90% of sterilization costs while approving the Hyde Amendment, which cut 98% of all federal funding for abortion. Legal scholar Edward Spriggs Jr. concluded that the widespread sterilization of Native American women constituted “perhaps the best contemporary examples of incipient genocide by private persons, often with public sanction, in the United States.”
Medical and disability historian Jaipreet Virdi added that involuntary sterilizations were also taking place in Canada. Sixty First Nations women filed a class action lawsuit in 2018, alleging they suffered forced sterilizations over a thirty-year period in Saskatchewan. Some of these crimes happened as recently as 2017.
Victims such as Brenda Pelletier say medical staff refused to release her and her family after giving birth until they agreed to sign sterilization consent forms. “Eugenic-minded” physicians, according to Karen Stote, still believe they have a duty to protect Canadian society from Aboriginal women who spread venereal disease, alcoholism and immorality through their offspring.
In Peru, the Program for Reproductive Health and Family Planning (PSRPF) under President Alberto Fujimori pursued a borderline genocidal policy against indigenous women – an estimated 300,000 were sterilized between 1995 and 2001. Marketed as a pro-feminist initiative and anti-poverty, the PSRPF according to Ñusta P. Carranza Ko, actually aims to achieve a very different goal: to eliminate future generations of protesters so that the multinationals can occupy and exploit indigenous lands rich in natural resources without resistance.
In Mexico, the Toronto Star reported that medical teams targeted indigenous Mixtec people for sterilization in the state of Guerrero between 1997 and 1998. After a lengthy investigation, the Guerrero Human Rights Commission concluded that many Mixtec men had undergone botched vasectomies which had caused terrible side effects. . Jose Toribio, for example, struggled to walk properly for years after undergoing the procedure due to throbbing pain in his left leg and groin.
The Mexican government clearly intends to reduce the number of “pure Indians” born in Guerrero, who make up about one-seventh of the state’s three million population. Members of Medical Squad No. 3, like their counterparts in Greenland and Canada, inserted IUDs into the wombs of Mixtec women or performed tubal ligations after caesarean sections without informing the patients. The brigadiers even threatened to suspend food aid or agricultural payments if impoverished Mixtecs refused to be sterilized.
Similar incidents took place in Bolivia during the Cold War. American policymakers and intellectuals, eager to counter Soviet anti-colonialism in the Global South, promoted dubious “modernization” theories, including intrusive population control measures that nearly wiped out vulnerable minorities in America. Latin.
The U.S. Peace Corps has attempted to pressure indigenous Bolivian people to adopt Western lifestyles, such as having fewer children. The volunteers saw the bellies of Quechua women as transmission belts of extreme poverty and backwardness. Sterilization programs were then seen as viable solutions to reduce undesirable communities and ultimately lead Bolivia into the 20e century.
Filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés, having heard stories of the Peace Corps secretly sterilizing Indigenous women, fictionalized these accounts in a popular film called Yawar Mallku (Blood of the Condor) in 1969. The film sparked a wave of rage across the country. Authorities in La Paz quickly investigated the activities of the Peace Corps, which resulted in the organization’s expulsion in 1971. The Peace Corps, as the film implied, was actually involved in projects clandestine IUD implantations.
However, nations in the Western Hemisphere are not alone in using coerced or coerced sterilizations to quietly end the reproduction of people deemed economically burdensome, medically “defective” or politically inconvenient. Various regimes in Africa and Asia also have a long and dastardly history in this regard.
Human rights expert Ebenezer Durojaye says health care providers in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya routinely sterilize HIV-positive women without their informed consent. Doctors and nurses even push women to sign consent forms without any explanation when they are already in labor.
In many African societies, motherhood is a sacred duty and infertility carries severe social stigma. Spouses, family and friends are likely to abandon or abuse women who, through no fault of their own, can no longer give birth. A Kenyan woman lamented that her partner reacted violently when she could no longer have children: “When I told him about sterilization, he took a machete and threatened to cut me into pieces”.
The unwanted injection of contraceptive drugs among women belonging to the Orang Asli tribes in Malaysia is also worth noting. Colin Nicholas, founder and coordinator of the Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), warns that successive governments since the 1980s have launched aggressive family planning campaigns to reduce Malaysia’s indigenous populations.
The Malay Mail reported in 2019 that several Orang Asli women came forward to complain that health workers were forcing them to take dangerous contraceptive injections: causing you to lose feeling in your body, stomach aches… But to in the end I had to cash in”. Some women have even blamed the injections for causing birth defects and malformations in their newborns.
The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MMH) insists that contraceptives protect anemic Orang Asli women from dangerous pregnancies. Experts such as Dr Milton Lum, however, disagree and compare MMH’s gross malpractice to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s forced sterilization of an estimated six million Indian men in 1976.
The IUD scandal in Greenland has the potential to destroy the already strained relationship between Copenhagen and Nuuk. Calls for full independence will grow louder and harder to ignore in the future. Greenlandic MP Doris J. Jensen told a media outlet that following the revelations, Nuuk should seriously reconsider its relationship with the metropolis. While MP Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam went further by insinuating that the Danish state should face criminal charges for attempted genocide.
If Copenhagen is to avoid an acrimonious split with Greenland, and keep its relatively positive reputation on the world stage intact, the myth of Denmark’s “innocent colonialism” must be busted once and for all. The DIU scandal proves beyond any doubt that Danish imperialism was never a benign, enlightened or insignificant project. It was a brutal undertaking that decimated countless lives on the slave routes of Ghana, the plantations of the Virgin Islands and the frozen ports of Greenland. Acknowledging this simple truth will go a long way in restoring relations with the Inuit and may even set a precedent for other nations to follow.