Greenland women take Denmark to court over historical involuntary birth control

By Reuters - March 4, 2024
FILE PHOTO: The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is seen behind a building with social housings with a mural in Nuuk, Greenland, September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo


Copenhagen (Reuters) – A group of women from Greenland are seeking compensation from its former colonial ruler Denmark in court over an involuntary birth control campaign launched in the 1960s, their lawyer said on Monday.

The birth control campaign came to light when Danish broadcaster DR in 2022 reported that records showed that, between 1966 and 1970, 4,500 intrauterine devices were fitted into women and girls as young as 13, without their knowledge or consent.

The case is one of several that have emerged in recent years with allegations of misconduct by Danish authorities against the people of its former colony.

Denmark publicly apologised in 2022 to the victims of a 1950s experiment in which children from Greenland were taken to Denmark.

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953 but is now a semi-sovereign territory of Denmark, with a population of just 57,000.

In October, the group of women who are now in their 70s and 80s sought 300,000 Danish crowns ($43,634) each in compensation.

The claim has not been accommodated by the Danish state, citing an ongoing investigation to uncover the extent of the cases and the decision-making process that led to the campaign in the years between 1960 and 1991, when Greenland gained authority over its healthcare system.

“My clients believe they were subject to a human rights violation because they have had IUDs inserted against their will, and in most cases when they were children,” the women’s lawyer, Mads Pramming, told Reuters.

The summons was formally submitted against Denmark’s health ministry.

“This is a deeply unfortunate case that we must get to the bottom of, and therefore an independent investigation has also been initiated,” Health Minister Sophie Lohde said in an emailed statement.

($1 = 6.8754 Danish crowns)


(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Alex Richardson)