Greenland Women Seek Justice and Compensation for Involuntary Birth Control Program in the 1960s

In a bid for justice and compensation, a group of 67 women from Greenland have come forward to seek redress from the Danish government regarding an involuntary birth control campaign that took place in the 1960s. The campaign, aimed at limiting birth rates among the indigenous population, involved fitting coils into the reproductive systems of at least 4,500 women, including teenagers. While an official inquiry is slated to conclude in 2025, the women, some of whom are now in their 70s, are requesting immediate compensation of 300,000 kroner each. Greenland, previously a Danish colony until 1953 and now a semi-sovereign territory, has brought the scale of this campaign to light through a podcast released by Danish broadcaster DR.

The records found in the national archives were startling, revealing that between 1966 and 1970 alone, intrauterine devices (IUDs) were inserted into the women, some as young as 13, without their knowledge or consent. A joint Danish and Greenlandic governmental commission has been established to investigate the full extent of the program and is expected to release its findings in May 2025. Meanwhile, psychologist Naja Lyberth, who initiated the compensation claim, emphasized that waiting was not an option due to the age of the women involved. Lyberth explained that some of these women, who had IUDs implanted in the 1960s, were born in the 1940s and are now approaching 80 years old, necessitating immediate action.

Lyberth further highlighted the adverse health consequences experienced by the women involved. In some cases, the devices implanted were too large for the girls’ bodies, leading to severe health complications and even infertility. Shockingly, many of the women were unaware of the presence of these devices until recently when they were discovered by gynaecologists. Lyberth accused the Danish government at the time of prioritizing financial savings on welfare by controlling the size of Greenland’s population, an action that clearly violated human rights and caused significant harm.

Representing the women, lawyer Mads Pramming submitted their compensation claims to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s office. Lyberth anticipated that the government would likely deny the request until the commission’s findings were released. In the event of a refusal, the group is prepared to take the matter to court to seek justice for the women who suffered the consequences of the involuntary birth control program.

Denmark has previously faced backlash for its treatment of Greenland’s indigenous population. Last year, the country issued an apology and provided compensation to six Inuit individuals who were forcibly separated from their families in the 1950s as part of an effort to establish a Danish-speaking elite within Greenland. These recent revelations regarding the involuntary birth control program have once again focused attention on Denmark’s historical mistreatment of the Greenlandic people.

Greenland, with a population of just 57,000, holds the distinction of being the largest island and the northernmost region on Earth. While it enjoys some autonomy with its flag, language, and prime minister, Greenland’s currency, justice system, and foreign and security affairs remain under the control of Denmark. The ongoing struggle for justice and compensation for the victims of the involuntary birth control program serves as a poignant reminder of the unresolved issues stemming from Denmark’s colonial past and its impact on Greenland’s indigenous population.