In brief

67 Greenlandic Inuit women seek compensation from Denmark in forced contraception scandal

Birth control plan was violently implemented in 1960s, 1970s against 4,500 women, with dire consequences

Naja Lyberth.
Naja Lyberth. Author: Facebook Naja Lyberth
67 Greenlandic Inuit women are demanding financial compensation from the Danish state for the violence and after-effects of the so-called spiral campaign, or spiralsagen: a largely uninformed birth control plan that was forced upon 4,500 women on the Arctic island during the 1960s and 1970s. The 67 women refuse to wait until the end of a government investigation currently underway, which is expected to release its conclusions in 2025.

This chapter in Greenland’s history was widely reported in 2022 thanks to a podcast by the Danish public broadcaster DR. The Danish state imposed an involuntary and, in many cases, inadequately informed birth control programme on nearly 4,500 Greenlandic Inuit women —some of them underage—, who had intrauterine devices (IUDs) inserted. The number amounts to approximately half of all Greenlandic Inuit women of childbearing age at the time.

Prior to the release of the podcast, one of the victims, Naja Lyberth, had already spoken publicly about these violations in 2017. Lyberth explains that IUD insertion caused many women pain, bleeding and infections. In some extreme cases, she says, complications resulting from inadequate medical care led to some victims having their uterus removed.

The Danish government wanted to reduce Greenland's birthrate, and within a few years it succeeded in doing so.

The 67 women are demanding compensation of 300,000 Danish kroner (around 40,000 euros) for each of them and official recognition of the damage inflicted on them. If Denmark does not agree to pay compensation, the women reserve the right to sue the state.