Peru Confronts Escalating Violence Against Women

Friday, July 23 2010

Highest Rates of Gender Based Violence in Latin America

More than half of all Peruvian women over the age of 15 say they have suffered sexual or physical violence by men during their lifetime, one of the world's highest rates.

Sexual violence against women in Peru is now so bad that Peru's President-elect Alan Garcia, who takes office on Friday, made it one of his central campaign issues and has vowed to tackle the problem and give women a greater say in government.

Male frustration at high unemployment in Peru despite the country' unprecedented economic growth since 2002 and a corrupt justice system that rarely makes convictions are exacerbating violence against women in an already macho society.

The violence is a direct consequence of poverty, Peru's Women's Minister, Ana Maria Romero told Reuters.

According to the United Nations, Peru is one of the most dangerous places for women in Latin America, a region that had the world's highest number of sexual assaults last year.

Jealous Man Strangles Wife! and Man Kills Wife After She Asked For Divorce! are just two of the hundreds of headlines compiled in a study by Amnesty International and Peruvian organization Flora Tristan, which works to protect women.

The study found that more than 300 women have been killed by men committing sexual violence in Peru since 2003, even in cases when victims asked for police protection.

The study found that 51 per cent of women in Lima and 69 per cent of women in the southern Andean city of Cuzco said they have been victims of sexual or physical violence.

The level of violence is significantly higher in Peru's impoverished rural areas. In the southern Huancavelica province where 90 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty, the rate of sexual and physical violence against women is ranked as one of the world's worst in a recent study by the World Health Organization.

Half of Peru's 13 million workers are underemployed, meaning they are forced into badly paid positions below their qualifications. Many women feel the violence comes from frustrations generated by the employment situation.

However, according to the WHO study, violence against women in Peru is worse than in countries with lower economic development such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh or Namibia. That is partly because of a corrupt judicial system and because violence against women has become almost the norm in Peruvian society.

In cases of rape women are discriminated against because of the way they dressed or acted. Government doctors are also unwilling to confirm that a woman has been raped to avoid participation in often tedious judicial processes that can last more than two years.

Nevertheless, faced with the rise of violent crimes against women, many in Peruvian society have begun to demand tougher laws and punishments for rapists. The result has so far been an increase in prison sentences for sexual abusers, which in the case of rapists who prey on young girls can mean up to life in prison.

But in practice, the new laws and even the presence of more women in public life has not made much impact.

Reuters reported in Push Journal 25/Jul/06

SOURCE: Push Journal, 25/Jul/06

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