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Reading: Free Choice or Poverty Alleviation? Population Politics in Peru under Alberto Fujimori


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Free Choice or Poverty Alleviation? Population Politics in Peru under Alberto Fujimori


Jelke Boesten

University of Bradford, GB
About Jelke
Jelke Boesten is Research Fellow, Department of Peace Studies, International  Centre for Participation Studies, University of Bradford, UK. Her work focuses on  the Andes in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her main areas of expertise  are gender and sexuality, gender and violence, HIV/AIDS, social movements and  social policy, and, recently, memory and violence. Currently, she is doing research  that examines meanings of rape in war and peace, of which the first results have  been published as: ‘Marrying Your Rapist: Domesticating War Crimes in Ayacucho, Peru’, in Donna Pankhurst (ed.) Gendered Peace: Women’s Search for  Post-War Justice and Reconciliation, London, Routledge, 2007. She is also working on a project examining AIDS activism, violence, and stigma in Sub-Saharan  Africa. She recently published ‘Pushing the Boundaries: Social Policy, Domestic  Violence, and Women’s Organizations in Peru’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 38 (2) 2006, pp. 355-78.
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In the second half of the 1990s, the Fujimori  government in Peru implemented a population  policy to sterilize poor, rural and indigenous  women according to quotas. How such a neoMalthusian policy was possible in a post-Cairo,  post-Beijing era of increasing attention for  women’s rights has, however, been relatively  understudied. This article argues that the government could impose such policies because 1) it  presented its plans with a deceiving rhetoric in  which emancipatory and developmental arguments were mixed to cover-up its interests in costeffective poverty-reduction through population  policies, and 2) because it could rely upon the  long-existing inequalities based on racism and  sexism that conditions the lives of poor Peruvians.  Unique auto-ethnographical material about Andean women’s reproductive lives, drawn up by a  feminist NGO, is used to underpin these arguments.  

Resumen: ¿Opción libre o paliación de la pobreza? Políticas demográficas en Perú  durante el gobierno de Alberto Fujimori

En la segunda mitad de los años noventa, el gobierno de Fujimori en Perú implementó una polí- tica demográfica que consistió en esterilizar a las  mujeres pobres, del campo e indígenas, de acuerdo a un sistema de cuotas. Cómo fue posible  formular e implementar semejante política neomalthusiana después del Cairo y de Pekín, período  en el que se presta creciente atención a los derechos de las mujeres, ha sido, sin embargo, relativamente poco estudiado. Este artículo sostiene  que el gobierno pudo imponer esas medidas debido a que 1) presentó sus planes con un retórica  engañosa en la que se utilizaron argumentos  emancipatorios y de desarrollo para encubrir sus  intereses en la aplicación de políticas demográficas rentables de reducción de la pobreza, y 2)  porque pudo descansar en las persistentes desigualdades derivadas del racismo y del sexismo,  que condicionan la vida de los peruanos pobres.  Para defender esta argumentación, en este artículo  se utilizan materiales autobiográficos únicos sobre  la vida reproductiva de las mujeres andinas. 

How to Cite: Boesten, J. (2007). Free Choice or Poverty Alleviation? Population Politics in Peru under Alberto Fujimori. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (82), 3–20. DOI:
Published on 15 Apr 2007.
Peer Reviewed


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