Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
1st July 2014
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Peru on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Presenting the reports, Jose Avila Herrera, Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Access to Justice, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, said that the Ministry of Women had been created in 1996 with the mandate to combat discrimination against women and close the gender gap. The National Commission against Discrimination had been set up to address the complexity of the problem of discrimination in the country and create institutional space that brought together eight ministries. Peru was one of the 125 countries in the world which criminalized domestic violence, but Peruvian women, particularly indigenous women and girls, were still facing many forms of discrimination. Peru was aware of this and stressed that there could be no justice, development and social cohesion without the full participation of women.
Committee Members commended the delegation for the national plans to combat violence against women and on gender equality and the criminalization of femicide. They raised concerns about widespread violence against women, discrimination against women in law and in practice, forced sterilizations, and impunity for sexual violence and violence against women. Experts inquired about the status of the review of legislation with the view to decriminalize abortion and also discussed trafficking in persons, the participation of women in political life, sexual harassment in the workplace, forced labour, and the huge wage gap between men and women.
The delegation of Peru included representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations and the Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Avila Herrera said that the current Government, which was a Government of the rule of law, wished to strengthen the State and promote its social agenda. The State aspired to reduce poverty through three key avenues, namely infrastructure revolution, health reform and education.
Nicole Ameline, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks thanked the delegation for their participation and hoped that the Committee’s recommendations would see a great rate of implementation.
The Committee will reconvene on Wednesday, 2 July at 10 a.m. to consider the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of India (CEDAW/C/IND/4-5).
The combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Peru can be read here: CEDAW/C/PER/7-8.
Presentation of the Report
JOSE AVILA HERRERA, Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Access to Justice, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, said that the international human rights standards had provided Peru with guidance for the construction of its laws, policies and justice system. The Ministry of Women had been created in 1996 and was now a very important institution with its own budget and the mandate to combat discrimination against women and close the gender gap. Peru was one of the 125 countries in the world which criminalized domestic violence. The National Commission against Discrimination had been set up to address the complexity of the problem of discrimination in the country and create an institutional space that brought together eight ministries. The National Plan for Gender Equality 2012-2017 had specific goals of gender mainstreaming across all levels of the State to promote cultural transformation in a number of key areas, including health, education, economic rights, political participation, violence against women, access to natural resources and the elimination of gender stereotypes. In 2013, Peru had launched the National System of Gender Indicators to modernize the State’s management and respond to the need for periodic information on progress in the achievement of substantive equality. In the last few years, substantive progress had been made in education; in health, strides were being made in maternal health and prenatal services. A technical guide for voluntary termination of pregnancies for therapeutic reasons legalized abortion when the health or life of the mother was at stake.
Family violence was a large scale problem in Peru, even if the national census of family health demonstrated a decrease in the number of women suffering violence at the hand of their spouse or partner since 2009. In 2013, Peru had established 25 new Women Emergency Centres, bringing the total number to 200 at the national level; centres provided legal, psychological and social support to women who were victims of violence. In recent years, Peru had promulgated a number of laws to improve the socio-economic lives of women, including the laws on maternity and paternity, criminalization of femicide, law against sexual harassment, and others. The jurisdictional sphere was very important in protecting the rights of women and Peru ensured that women were indeed citizens with the same rights and freedoms to participate in decision-making and development. Gender perspectives had also been mainstreamed in intercultural justice, while the 100 Brasilia Rules on access to justice had been recognized, thus ensuring that women were better placed in accessing the justice system. A unit had been created in the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to legally assist the victims of crime and human rights violations. Peruvian women were still facing many forms of discrimination, particularly indigenous women and girls; Peru was aware of this and wished to look ahead and reduce each and every form of discrimination. There could not be justice, development or social cohesion without the full participation of women. In closing, Mr. Avila Herrera stressed that achieving and securing peace was an absolute priority for Peru and that Peru would continue to look into relations between human rights, peace and gender equality.
Questions from the Experts
An Expert began the interactive dialogue by commending Peru for adopting the technical guide for therapeutic termination of pregnancy which was an issue of great concern to the Committee. The Expert noted the existing discrimination against women in law, for example the law on violence against women which did not include indigenous women. The Committee was concerned about the failure of Peru to fulfil the recommendation that the Committee made in the case of L.C., and about forced sterilizations that were still being carried out in the country. Another Expert asked about institutional machinery and, noting positive measures to mainstream gender into laws and policies, asked how the implementation was going and how the gender indicators were being used.
There was a huge implementation gap between the many laws and policies and the persistent discrimination in the country, an Expert noted, and asked whether the gender indicators took into account cultural diversity as well. What were the plans to increase financial resources for gender equality programmes? The recommendations of the Committee in the case of L.C. were that Peru provide reparations and consider the decriminalization of abortion following rape; Committee Experts asked about the national mechanism for the implementation of recommendations on individual cases coming from treaty bodies and about the status of the review of legislation with the view to decriminalize abortion in the case of rape. Experts also asked about special initiatives or actions in favour of indigenous women, and how the strategy for the implementation of the national strategy on gender equality was being funded.
Responses by the Delegation
Regarding the technical guide for therapeutic termination of pregnancy, Peru said that there were provisions in it for training of health workers. Peru had made efforts to address cases of forced sterilization and several medical workers had been charged in this connection, including for organized criminal activity. The case was now before the Third Court in Lima and should be resolved within the next few months. Concerning discrimination against women in law, Peru said that one of the main purposes of the National Commission against Discrimination was to examine a legal framework to detect and remove discriminatory provisions from legal provisions. Peru had started last year the use of gender indicators which had made it possible for the first time to have a national report that included those indicators, while the first assessment of the National Gender Equality Plan would be assessed against those indicators next year.
The Supranational Authority was responsible for compliance with all treaty bodies rulings and was part of the Intra-American system. The funding of the national strategy on gender equality was provided from each participating ministry. The State was planning to revise the legislation on abortion, although no concrete plans were being made in this regard. With regard to the case of L.C., Peru said that it would be pressing the point to provide comprehensive compensation and stressed that the possible decriminalization of abortion because of sexual violence or rape required careful examination. It was important to specify that the guidelines for therapeutic abortion authorised abortion following rape only if the pregnancy put at risk the life or health of the mother.
Questions from the Experts
The introduction of gender quotas for the participation of women in regional and national elections was a step in the right direction, said a Committee Expert, and asked about the measures to ensure the enforcement of this requirement, about plans to adopt those as permanent legal measures in order to ensure enforcement of the quota requirement, and whether Peru was considering more programmes targeting women to implement this important special temporary measure.
Concerning gender-based stereotypes, an Expert asked what the prevailing stereotypes in the country were, how they influenced violence against women, and what was being done to address them. The Expert commended the national plan to combat violence against women and asked about the criminalization of femicide. Impunity was an ongoing problem, particularly for perpetrators of sexual violence and rape; could the delegation comment on challenges to the prosecution of cases of rape and sexual violence and the possible new legislation on violence against women?
The Committee commended Peru for its national action plan to combat trafficking in persons 2011-2016 and the establishment of the national registry for trafficking offences. The delegation was asked to elaborate on the implementation of this plan, the statistics related to prosecution for trafficking in persons, and the measures to prevent and protect adolescent victims of trafficking. Peru had the highest number of reported cases of rape and sexual violence on the continent; the female body was often treated as an object and the legalization of prostitution might have played a role in this. Were there programmes in place to assist women wishing to leave the trade and to discourage young girls from going into prostitution?
In a series of follow-up questions and comments, Committee Experts asked about training and sensitisation on gender issues of the staff of the executive branch at all levels; the absence of a national standardised system for recording and processing cases of violence against women at all judicial levels; the content of the new law on violence against women and the status of protection orders; the comprehensive reparation plans for victims of sexual violence in conflict, which were more advanced then similar schemes in the former Yugoslavia; and the timetable for the adoption of the Rome Statute. The Committee also stressed that there was important work that needed to be done to decriminalize abortion following rape and to criminalize sexual harassment in all walks of life.
Responses by the Delegation
The amendment to the Criminal Code had allowed the incorporation of femicide as a free-standing crime. The Office of the Public Prosecutor had been tackling the crime of trafficking in persons in several ways and was taking steps to optimize the process and ensure that the victim was a subject of law. The central protection unit had been set up to protect victims and witnesses, a multi-sectoral standing working group had been established and there were a number of programmes in place to protect and assist victims. The National Plan on Combating Violence against Women and the plan on gender equality were working on identifying and eradicating gender stereotypes which were very wide-ranging and diverse; they also criminalized all forms of violence against women. Significant efforts were being made to combat impunity for sexual violence and violence against women, including the criminalization of femicide and the Chapter 9 of the Criminal Code on crimes against sexual freedom, which set up aggravating circumstances for crimes against minors. Significant progress was being made in addressing sexual violence against youth, including through a protocol to assist and question victims which avoided their re-victimization, and in emotional assistance and compensation.
The ratification of the Rome Statute was on the legislative agenda. Decriminalizing abortion following rape and criminalizing sexual harassment in all walks of life were issues of criminal policy in the country, and this work would be guided by the legislative platform composed of several ministries. The guide on therapeutic abortion did not automatically allow termination of pregnancy originating from rape or sexual violence; the deciding factor was the risk to life and health, including the mental health, of the mother. Concerning training of the judiciary on gender approaches, the delegation noted that 80 per cent of public bodies had staff development plans, and that the majority of those plans already included gender approaches. There were two ways to obtain reparations for violence suffered in conflict, one through court which was lengthy, and another through the registry of victims of armed conflict in which 2,833 women had been registered as victims of sexual violence.
Questions from the Experts
An Expert inquired about the prospects for the adoption of laws to advance and increase the participation of women in the judiciary and in public life, and about measures to protect women in politics from sexual violence, intimidation and harassment. Large numbers of women, particularly indigenous women, did not have national identity documents and could not obtain citizenship or social benefits. How were nationality laws interpreted to ensure that children born to non-Peruvian parents, particularly in the Amazonian and border regions, had a nationality?
A Committee Expert noted the lack of disaggregated data on education which hid the real situation of indigenous populations and asked about sexuality education in the school curriculum, sanctions for teachers for sexual violence and harassment, measures to ensure that children with disabilities were included in the education system, and measures taken to ensure that minorities received education in their native tongues.
Responses by the Delegation
Last year, Peru started a programme of service delivery to remote areas, including in the Amazonia, using boats staffed with civil servants, who brought services such as health, education, banking, population registration and others. The law on universal health insurance ensured coverage for all and in December 2013, the requirement of a national identity card to obtain health insurance was removed; as of 2014, access to the health system for children and pregnant women regardless of their insurance status was guaranteed. The draft law on sexual harassment had been tabled and had not been adopted yet. The quota law was meant to offset the low level of representation of women in the Parliament, but it was important to say that at the implementation level it came against the so-called preferential vote system according to which seats were allocated to candidates with the higher number of votes, thereby fulfilling the popular will.
The Constitutional Court had stated that pregnancy resulting from lack of education was a discriminatory practice, while the National Plan for the Prevention of Early Pregnancies provided access to health care to pregnant adolescent girls and ensured access to alternative education to adolescent girls following birth.
Questions from the Experts
A Committee Expert said that forced labour had been an issue in Peru; noting the adoption of the Second National Plan to Combat Forced Labour in June 2013, the Expert asked about the implementation of this programme, particularly in relation to women in domestic service and child labour. There was a huge wage gap in the country, with men earning as much as 40 per cent more than women; were there programmes in place to measure this problem, which was present in many areas in the country? It was not clear how complaints could be filed by women facing sexual harassment in the workplace and what were the general policies in place to address those issues. The Expert asked about measures taken to improve the situation of women working in the informal sector, including through granting protection to pregnant women, and whether Peru intended to sign International Labour Organization Convention 189 on domestic workers.
Abortion was the cause behind 18 per cent of maternal deaths and an Expert asked whether abortion was possible when it was clear that the foetus presented abnormalities. The Expert asked about the availability of contraceptives and about preconditions in the technical guidelines on abortion. Another Expert took up the issue of paternal leave and said that paternal leave longer than five days was required in order to start a transformation of gender roles.
Response by the Delegation
The Protocol for combating forced labour was being reviewed and would be soon adopted, while accession to International Labour Organization Convention 189 was being considered at the moment. Further, Peru had in place a plan of action to protect victims of forced labour, while amendments to the Criminal Code to increase sanctions to 10 years imprisonment would soon be seen by the Congress. A delegate stressed that not everything that was informal was unprotected, adding that domestic work was a good example of this: in Lima, where one third of the population lived, domestic work was paid almost 40 per cent above the minimum wage, purely because of the declining number of domestic workers because of the economic advancements in the country. Concerning the wage gap, there had been an increase in average income for women during the period 2010-2013. The Ministry of Women had in place a pilot programme to measure the principle of equal pay for equal work in two companies in Peru. Statistics on sexual harassment in the workplace were not available, which pointed to the need to better disseminate the law; available figures came from secondary sources.
In relation to the access to emergency contraceptive pill, the delegation said that in 2009, the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry to stop freely distributing the morning-after pill; in 2011, it was declared that the emergency contraceptive was not abortive. The use of modern contraception methods was on the increase in both rural and urban areas. With regard to authorisation for therapeutic abortion which was included in the Criminal Code, a representative from the Ministry of Health said the first step was diagnosis of the expectant mother, secondly the case was transferred to a medical board which would decide whether the procedure was appropriate and whether it should be carried out; consent of the mother was also required for the elimination of the pregnancy. The mother had a possibility to convene a second medical board should she not be satisfied with the decision. Peru was not looking into extending paternal leave beyond the current four days granted by the law.
Questions from the Experts
Rural women remained more disadvantaged compared to urban women in many aspects of their lives, said a Committee Expert, and asked about the measures to overcome major constraints and provide greater protection, particularly for elderly women and women with disabilities. What actions were being undertaken to alleviate the impact of global warming on the rural poor, particularly women and indigenous peoples? How were indigenous women being included in the discussions on land and natural resources and negotiations with extractive industries?
Response by the Delegation
With regard to vulnerable women, a Working Group on lesbians had been set up in 2012 to develop public policy tools, while gender and cultural diversity provisions contained in the National Action Plan on Gender Equality covered indigenous women and women of various sexual orientations. An agrarian census had been conducted, showing that the majority of over two million agrarian workers were women; that 27.3 per cent of them were illiterate, three times more than men; and that access to and ownership of land was in the hands of men.
Questions from the Experts
Concerning the legal framework that covered the marital property regime in Peru, a Committee Expert asked whether it also included intangible provisions such as pension or health or social insurance and asked the delegation to clarify the issue of child support and child custody, particularly in light of the enforcement of payment of child support which, if not paid, pushed women and their children below the poverty line.
An Expert acknowledged that the Constitution and the Civil Code had made progress in the equal treatment of women and asked about the need for authorisation for a married person to work outside of the home, which was supposed to be gender neutral. Corporal punishment was illegal in schools, but was legal at home. Sexual abuse inside the family was a problem in the region, and it required a tailor-made strategy to address it. Were there special measures in favour of migrant women, and women in custody?
Response by the Delegation
Child support was regulated by the provisions of the Civil Code, while 20 years ago the Congress had adopted a law which had widened the period of payment of alimony to 15 years before the statute of limitations ran out. Peru was working on the second national plan for equal opportunities which would include coverage of adults above the age of 18 and would see payment of grants to those individuals when in hardship. The marital property regime was regulated by the Civil Code which established equal division of everything acquired during the marriage, including pension and insurance. Alimony was to the tune of up to 60 per cent of father’s earnings, and individuals who failed to pay alimony were on a special register of deadbeats. Judges could assign compulsory payment of alimony on a temporary basis and more importantly, payment of alimony did not have to be enforced by the judiciary but an existing municipal mechanism could be used for the purpose.
On maternal mortality, a delegate said that a methodology was used to measure the rate and that figures were provided on five-year intervals; in 2010, maternal mortality stood at 93 deaths in 100,000 live births. Access to a safe birth had increased as well, particularly in the rural areas, where over 70 per cent of women had reported access to maternal health services. The Criminal Code had defined that abortions could only be practiced if there was a risk to the life of the mother or a severe and permanent risk to her health. It was now up to the society in Peru to decide whether amendments to the law were needed.
Rural women and the impact of climate change on rural women was a new area of work for the Ministry of Women, which had in place measures to increase their access to health and education and to extend health insurance. The right to prior consultation of indigenous women was mainstreamed within the work of the Ministry of Environment. Peru was very much in the learning stage and was slowly garnering experience in this area.
Anything that had to do with abortion was extremely sensitive both politically and socially, in Peru and in many other countries, and it must be acknowledged that the adoption of the guidelines on therapeutic abortion was a major milestone. If the society was ready to go further, it would have been already done. There was a need to thread carefully, to acknowledge grey areas that existed in the interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
JOSE AVILA HERRERA, Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Access to Justice, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, in his closing remarks thanked the Committee Members and said that the current Government, which was a Government of the rule of law, wished to strengthen the State and promote its social agenda. The State aspired to reduce poverty through three key avenues, namely infrastructure revolution, health reform and education.
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks thanked the delegation for their participation. The recommendations of the Committee would be transmitted though the Permanent Mission of Peru, she said and expressed hope that they would be greatly implemented.
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