Greenland Women Seek Compensation for Danish Forced Birth Control Campaign in the 1960s


A coalition of 67 women hailing from the remote terrains of Greenland have come forward to claim compensation from the Danish government for an enforced birth control campaign in the 1960s. According to records, the program subjected no less than 4,500 women including young teenagers to unwarranted implantation of intrauterine devices (IUDs). The strategic motive was to control the growth of the indigenous populace.

Although an investigation into the matter is anticipated to conclude only by 2025, these women, now predominantly in their twilight years, are demanding immediate restitution. Their appeal seeks a remuneration of 300,000 kroner per capita.

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Until its independence in 1953, Greenland was recognized as a Danish colony. The erstwhile colonial regime now acknowledges the icy rock as a semi-autonomous entity with its own government that continues to depend on Denmark for monetary, justice, foreign, and defence affairs.

The concealment of this extensive birth control initiative came to light through a podcast by Danish broadcaster, DR, last year. The official archive records shared in the podcast testified to the administration’s infringement of consent – IUDs were implanted in unsuspecting women, some as young as 13 years, between 1966-1970.

Based on estimates by the Greenlandic government and validated by DR, nearly 35% of women of reproductive age in the territory had been administered an IUD by the end of 1969. The Danish and Greenland governments have formed a commission to delve into the controversial program whose conclusion is due by May 2025.

Psychologist Naja Lyberth spearheads the campaign for compensation. Lyberth expresses the desperation of the aggrieved women who cannot afford to wait for the investigation’s result given their advancing age.

The birth control devices, she states, were in many instances too large for the young recipients and resulted in serious health issues, even rendering some women infertile. There were also instances of women remaining oblivious to being implanted until recent examinations by gynecologists.

Lyberth attributes this draconian policy to the Danish government’s desire to reduce Greenland’s population, thus minimizing welfare expenditure. “There’s absolute certainty that the government committed a direct breach of law by infringing on our human rights and causing us significant harm,” she argued.

Mads Pramming, the women’s legal representative, forwarded their claims to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s office. Given the government’s predictably hesitant stance in processing the claim, the women are prepared to take the issue to court, as advised by Lyberth.

Last year, Denmark had issued an apology and provided compensation to six Inuits who were segregated from their families in the 1950s – an orchestrated effort to create a Danish-speaking elite within Greenland. The incident and its subsequent resolution give hope to the women, who too had suffered under a similarly oppressive regime.

The unique island of Greenland, with its sparse population of 57,000, holds the title for the most substantial and extreme northern landmass globally, complete with its own flag and language.