Panama investigates claimed forced Indigenous sterilization

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Prosecutors and human rights officials went to the region of Panama’s Ngobe-Bugle people Monday to investigate claims by a dozen Indigenous women that they had been subjected to sterilization procedures without their consent.

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

Legislator Walkiria Chandler said the complaint came from a spokeswoman for the 12 women, each of whom apparently spoke only the Indigenous language and already had two children. The Ngobe-Bugle are the largest of Panama’s many Indigenous groups.

“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 to be seen whether the women would have understood what they were signing, without a translator.

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