Greenland: A Systemic Violation of Bodily Autonomy
Around The World,  Reproductive Rights and Justice

Greenland: A Systemic Violation of Bodily Autonomy



For years Greenland’s women voiced the grievous harm that they had endured at the hands of the Danish state, with them now demanding, and no longer asking, for justice.


Sadly, It is no surprise that women’s bodily autonomy and their right to form their own life decisions are being violated by states’ actions.


Such situations are not uncommon, take the USA as an example, where reproductive rights have been under attack for decades.


Although, despite it being another human rights violation claim amongst a sea of them, it does not make it any less grievous.


The grievous violation of taking away a decision from people, some of whom were never even aware of the violation in the first place.


The Absence of Choice 

The Danish state is being sued by nearly 150 Greenlandic women, over an allegation that they were, without their knowledge or consent, fitted with a contraceptive coil.  


On Monday 4th March, 143 women took said action demanding, for what they call human rights violations, a group payment of nearly 43m Danish Kroner (£4.9m).


In Danish doctors’ attempts to decrease Greenland’s population, it is alleged that certain women as young as 12 were fitted with an intrauterine device (IUD), with it estimated that between 1966 and 1970 4,500 girls and women were impacted.   


However, this legal maneuver has not come out of the blue, with last October baring witness to 67 of Greenland’s women coming forward to demand that the state either face legal action or compensate them. 


Since that moment there has been a more than doubling of women seeking compensation in the figure of 300,000 Danish Kroner (£34,430) each.


The first woman to come forward about such a bodily autonomy violation, Naja Lyberth a women’s rights activist and psychologist at the time, stated that the women, the oldest of whom are past 80 years old, are unable to wait any longer, accusing the government of;

“dragging out the time”.


Talking to Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa (KNR), the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, Lyberth said that 

“As long as we live, we want to regain our self-respect and respect for our wombs. There is no government to decide whether we should have children or not.”


Talking in October of 2023, she said that despite having gone on to have a child, after experiencing great challenges to even get pregnant in the first place, many other women found that they were unable to conceive with one woman only finding out that in 2022 she had been fitted with a coil. 

“It was the same as sterilising the girls from the beginning,” 


stated Lyberth, with numerous women being left with internal bleeding, severe pain, and abdominal infections. 


Although her story was publicised years prior, the issue has taken some time to garner widespread attention in Denmark.


Even then the response has been at a snail’s pace.


The Spectre of Colonialism

Forming a Danish colony in 1953, Greenland, along with forming part of Denmark’s realm and retaining two representatives in the Danish parliament, the nation has its own local government.


While the Danish state has yet to form any sort of meaningful response to the issue at hand, there has been some action taken.


The prior year saw the Greenlandic government, Naalakkersuisut, with the Danish state commissioning an impartial investigation into the coil case in addition to other pregnancy curtailing actions undertaken in Greenland between 1960 and 1991. At this point, the autonomous territory reclaimed control of its health sector. 


On the other hand, the report is due until May 2025.  


In response to the situation, the Danish Interior and Health Ministery stated that it 

“looks forward to receiving and reading the subpoena”.


Furthermore, Sophie Løhde, the Danish Interior and Health Minister, stated that;

“It is a tragic matter, and we must get to the bottom of what happened, which is why a team of researchers is currently conducting an independent and impartial investigation.”


A Precious Moment Ripped Away 

Whether people decide or not to have children what is foundational to the whole process is that there be a free choice behind it.


The Danish state’s actions against a people who simply wished to exercise their fundamental right to bodily autonomy is not only grievous but heartbreaking.


Heartbreaking for those who wanted to take the journey of parenthood, only to have it snatched away by a cruel actor.


Everyone has the right to choose and this case should serve as an example of how women’s bodily autonomy is continually being played with as if it were a toy, not an inalienable right. 


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