A dozen indigenous women in Panama claim to be victims of forced sterilization

Prosecutors and human rights officials went to a region of Panama on February 21 to investigate claims from a dozen Indigenous women that they had been subjected to sterilization procedures without their consent.

The women are from the Ngobé-Buglé community, the largest of Panama’s many Indigenous groups.

The allegations were made before a legislative commission that visited the area in October. The procedures allegedly took place at a public hospital run by the government.

Panama legislator Walkiria Chandler said the complaint came from a spokeswoman for the 12 women.

Each of them apparently speaks only the Indigenous language and already had two children when sterilization allegedly occurred.

If this is a policy, the women should be informed and allowed to give their consent,” Chandler said.

The Health Ministry said any such procedure would require a signed letter of consent. “This procedure is not done without this document, and thus this cannot have been done in the manner in which it is being described,” the ministry said in a statement.

It remained unsure whether the women would have understood what they were signing, without a translator.

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