Dozens of women in Greenland ask Denmark for compensation over forced birth control


A group of 67 women from Greenland on Monday filed claims for compensation from the Danish government for being fitted with intrauterine devices without their consent decades ago.

Many of the women were only teenagers when they received coils or IUDs under a program, discreetly organized by Denmark, set up to limit birth rates in the Arctic territory.

A series of podcasts based on national archives and published in the spring of 2022 by Danish broadcaster DR revealed the scale of the campaign as Denmark and Greenland are re-examining their past relationship. In the 60s and 70s, some 4,500 young Inuit women had IUDs inserted without their consent or that of their families, according to DR’s reporting. 

The plaintiffs are requesting a reward in kroner equivalent to about $42,000.

Launched last year, a commission examining grievances against the Danish state is due to publish its findings in 2025, but the complainants want recompense before then.

“We don’t want to wait for the results of the enquiry,” Psychologist Naja Lyberth, who initiated the compensation claim, told AFP. “We are getting older, the oldest of us, who had IUDs inserted in the 1960s, were born in the 1940s and are approaching 80. … We want to act now.” 

A large number of women were unaware that they were wearing a contraceptive device and, until recently, Greenlandic gynecologists found IUDs in women who were unaware of their presence, according to Lyberth.

According to her, the government will likely refuse their requests pending the results of the commission — in which case the matter will be taken to court.

“It’s already 100 percent clear that the government has broken the law by violating our human rights and causing us serious harm,” she added.

While it ceased to be a colony in 1953, Greenland remained under Copenhagen’s control. The world’s largest island — located in the Arctic some 1,550 miles from Denmark — has its own flag, language, culture, institutions and prime minister. Since the 2009 Self-Government Act, only currency, the justice system and foreign and security affairs fall under Denmark’s authority. But it relies heavily on a Danish grant, which makes up a quarter of its GDP and more than half its public budget.

In 2022, Denmark apologized and paid compensation to six Inuit who were taken from their families in the 1950s to take part in an experiment to build a Danish-speaking elite in the Arctic territory.

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