Denmark Sued For Millions Over Forced Contraception

In an unprecedented legal challenge, 143 Indigenous Greenlandic women have filed a lawsuit against Denmark, seeking compensation of almost $6.3 million. They claim that during the 1960s and 70s, Danish health officials infringed upon their human rights by compelling them to receive intrauterine contraceptive devices, also known as coils, without their consent or knowledge. This lawsuit aims to expose the violations experienced by these women, who were often teenagers at the time and either did not understand or did not agree to the procedure.

The alleged purpose behind this coerced contraception was to control population growth in Greenland, as the Arctic island experienced significant improvements in living conditions and healthcare during this period. The small T-shaped device, made from plastic and copper, was inserted into the uterus to prevent fertilization.

Danish officials have reported that between the 1960s and mid-1970s, as many as 4,500 women and girls—allegedly accounting for half of Greenland’s fertile female population—were fitted with coil implants. In light of the profound implications of these actions, the governments of Denmark and Greenland commenced a probe into the matter in September 2022, anticipating the results to be revealed the following year.

However, the women involved in the lawsuit refuse to wait for the investigation’s conclusion, as time is of the essence for many of them. “The oldest of us are over 80 years old, and therefore, we cannot wait any longer,” states Naja Lyberth, one of the women leading the charge. “As long as we live, we want to regain our self-respect and respect for our wombs,” she adds.

The Danish government has offered psychiatric counseling to those affected, acknowledging the physical and emotional pain endured by these women, which still lingers to this day. However, the demand for justice through the court system remains the only viable option, according to their lawyer, Mads Pramming.

This legal battle not only seeks compensation for the individual victims but also aims to highlight the broader issue of reproductive rights and human rights violations faced by Indigenous women. It brings attention to the historical dynamics between Greenland and Denmark, which was once a colonial relationship until Greenland gained home rule in 1979 and became a self-governing entity. Though Greenland now controls its healthcare sector, Denmark still retains foreign and defense affairs authority.

The significance of this lawsuit extends beyond financial compensation. It serves as a powerful reminder that the voices of marginalized communities cannot be silenced, and the injustices they have endured must be acknowledged and redressed. As the legal proceedings unfold, the world watches with anticipation, hoping that justice will prevail for these courageous Indigenous women from Greenland.