A dozen Panamanian indigenous women reported having been sterilized without their consent in a public hospital, which has led to the start of official investigations, reported a deputy involved in the investigations.
“The women approached us, as authority figures, and told us that they are being sterilized without their consent,” alternate deputy Walkiria Chandler told AFP.
According to this legislator, the complaint was made to a delegation of deputies of which she was a member during a visit to the indigenous community of Charco La Pava, a mountainous area of difficult access located in the province of Bocas del Toro, in the northwest of the country.
The delegation had gone to this town, inhabited by Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous people, to address a complaint about a possible outbreak of a parasitic disease in children. Once in the place, several women denounced the sterilizations.
The deputy and president of the Commission for Women, Children, Youth and Family of the National Assembly, Zulay Rodríguez, told AFP that a legislative subcommission will be created in the coming days to investigate the events.
“It is extremely serious and we are going to investigate it,” said Rodríguez, of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party. “This that has happened is not going to go unpunished,” he added.
On his Twitter account, the Ombudsman of Panama, Eduardo Leblanc, reported that he will request details about “the women allegedly affected.”
The indigenous women assure that those who have given birth in the hospital designated for the alleged sterilizations “lost their reproductive capacity.”
However, those who gave birth in their communities, under ancestral procedures, “were able to continue reproducing,” added Chandler.
“They mention to us that about a dozen women would have observed that they were sterilized without their consent,” added Chandler.
Deputy Rodríguez also assured that to date “there has been no response” from the health authorities to these complaints.
“We are not disregarding the testimonies of the women of the original populations, but due to due process it seems correct to us to listen to both parties to find out what is happening,” Chandler declared.
AFP tried to seek a reaction from the Panamanian Ministry of Health, but received no response.
On Tuesday, Chandler questioned the Vice Minister of Health, Ivette Berrio, about this case during an appearance in the Assembly, but her questions were rejected because they were not related to the case that caused the appearance of the Vice Minister.
In 2021, this same legislative commission denounced the abuse and rape in shelters of more than a dozen poor children, which led to the opening of several legal proceedings.