The ambulance arrived at 5 a.m., then the nurse gave the women an injection, which was allegedly for measles. They lost consciousness. When they woke up, the possibility to have children had been taken away. This is the testimony of one of the 272,028 women who were forcefully sterilized in Perú from 1990 to 2000. Photographer Liz Tasa (@liztasa) documents the experiences and stories in the project Kápar.
At the time of the presidency of Alberto Fujimori, the government carried out the National Plan of Reproductive Health and Family Planification. Through this plan, thousands of indigenous women of rural communities were deceived and manipulated to receive an unwanted sterilization procedure. There are many issues with this kind of policy, apart from the clear violation of human rights. One of them is that the program specifically targeted women from isolated communities, and due to the physical distance, these human rights violations went mostly unnoticed for many years. Another layer is the language barrier, the women spoke mostly Quechuan languages (a group of languages used in the Andes) and little Spanish. When they were giving consenting papers, they didn´t know what they were signing.
Liz says that some women explained to her how the doctors would refer to their reproductive traditions with animalistic depictions, "they reproduce like rabbits" doctors would say. Kápar is a word used to refer to the castration of animals in Quechua. Tasa explains that in the Andean community's fertility is an important element of their culture and what was done to many of the women is comparable to the treatment given to animals, therefore the project acquired this name. Nowadays, people in their communities refer to them as the kaponas referring to their experience as castration.
The victims suffer from physical, psychological, and social consequences. For example, due to the lack of quality procedures, many women now have abdominal pain and are not able to work as they used to, which has affected their overall wellbeing.
On the other hand, the government hasn't facilitated psychological treatment to help them heal from the pain of trauma, caused by the transgression of their bodies and the consequential discrimination they have been through. As mentioned before, fertility is an important aspect of them, as women, in their cultures. What was done is perceived as disgraceful and the blame is put upon the victims. Some of them were abandoned by their husbands and are not treated equally in their communities.
Tasa developed the project through different media: photography, audiovisual, photograms, and she will publish a book this year. The investigation process was important for the author because some projects have started to record the events, but there is still much information that is not known. Tasa considers the image as a valuable documenting tool that not only records information, but because it also helps to create a deeper connection between the spectator and the subject.
The project started with a journalistic style, but later evolved. Tasa changed the aesthetic language and utilized symbols as a storytelling method, then the style became more experimental. Some themes represented are the wounds, the womb, the past, and the present.
Kápar is a project that seeks to create awareness about the events of the past that still affect the women in the present and helps to construct part of the historic memory of Perú. Tasa wishes for the viewer to understand and respect the culture of these communities. But most importantly, the author's purpose is to create a precedent for future projects that help bring more light to these events and help avoid this kind of human violations that affects especially women's rights.
Liz Tasa is a Peruvian photographer. Her career is focused on documenting, through photography, social issues in Perú related to racism and politics. She has worked as a photojournalist in “El Diario el Comercio”, “Diario el Correo”. In 2018 she graduated from the master’s program of Photodocumentary from “Centro de la Imagen”. At the same time, she is a communications graduate from the University of Piura. Liz has participated in the art residency Smart Program: Sustainable art for the mountain regions in Switzerland. Her work has been shown in different exhibitions in Perú, Switzerland, Italy, Colombia, among others. Kápar was a finalist project in Women Photographers in Ph Museum, it has also been published in Vogue Magazine, second place in the category of The strength of Women in POY LATAM 2019, and has gotten several other international recognitions.
Watch Liz's video for KÁPAR: