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Statements Special Procedures

UN Human Rights Council Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice concludes country visit to Peru

19 September 2014

LIMA (19 September 2014) – At the end of a 9-day mission to Peru, Frances Raday, Chair-Rapporteur, and Alda Facio, Member, of the Human Rights Council Working Group delivered the following statement:

“We want to express our sincere appreciation to the Government of Peru for having invited us to conduct this country visit, during which we have been to Lima and Ayacucho. The Working Group was deeply impressed by the cultural richness of the people of Peru. We are grateful to all our interlocutors, including State officials at the national, regional and local levels, representatives of civil society organisations and representatives of United Nations agencies. We would like also to thank the various women’s associations who shared their experiences with us.

Legal, institutional and policy framework

At the outset, we would like to welcome all the efforts deployed by the Government in recent years to reinforce its legal framework regarding the promotion and protection of women’s human rights and gender equality as well as the various plans and programmes developed in this regard . We welcome the numerous initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations and its intention to establish a department of economic empowerment for women. However we regret that this Ministry does not have an adequate budget to fully fulfil its mandate.  The Ministry for Development and Social Inclusion has developed inclusion policies which have positive impact on women, in the areas of incentives for girls’ school attendance by payments to mothers through the Juntos program  and in pensions for over 65 year olds. However, it has been reported that these benefits reach only part of the eligible population and it is to be hoped that the budget be appropriately increased.

Laws and policies which affect women and girls are formulated at the national level and we were informed that national budgeting for implementation of these policies is not systematically adapted to the current requirements of the population in the regions. Interlocutors have said that regional authorities which are responsible for allocation of budget, including for health and education, do not prioritize women’s needs.

Economic development and inequality

Over the last decade, Peru has experienced rapid and sustained economic growth and is ranked an upper middle income country. Poverty was reduced from 58,7% in 2004 to 23,9% in 2013. However, the country’s human development index has hardly improved. Peru is characterized by acute regional inequalities which have not been resolved and, in some highland Andean departments, poverty still affects more than 50% of the population. The increasing economic development has not brought decent work opportunities for the vast majority of the population and the precarious nature of employment affects women severely. It has been reported that many women have emigrated because of severe economic hardship. The Working Group sees the creation by the Government of one million jobs in the formal sector in the past decade as a move in the right direction.

Extractive industries and indigenous women

While acknowledging the economic benefits to the country from extractive industries, the impact of these industries, aggravated by illegal and informal mining, on indigenous and peasant communities has been observed as having devastating social and environmental consequences. However, the disparate, pervasive and extreme gendered harm to women has not been recognized. Indigenous women have informed the Working Group that they have experienced the impact as a form of violence to them and their cultural heritage. They are deprived of their land and livelihood, clean water and agricultural production. Compensation for community land is often distributed to male heads of households and jobs created by extractive industries mostly go to men. Girls are subjected to sexual violence by some of the men who come to work in the industries, particularly in the Amazon region, including rape on their way to school and trafficking for prostitution. The deprivation of their land forces the women to move into cities, without the authorities providing them with the necessary skills to support themselves and their children in a totally different environment. In the cities, the women experience extreme poverty, severe discrimination, labour exploitation, prostitution and sexual violence.

Peru, under ILO Convention No. 169, has the obligation to consult indigenous and tribal peoples, without discrimination between men and women, before permitting any programmes for the exploitation of resources pertaining to their lands. While we learnt that, in prior consultations regarding the granting of concessions to extractive industries, this obligation has not been fully respected as regards indigenous and tribal men, in the case of women, no effective participation has been facilitated and their request to establish a quota was denied. Furthermore, women’s needs and interests must be equally taken into account in all social investment programs which allocate benefits or compensation for any damages sustained as a result of such activities.

However, interlocutors have claimed that even on issues which are the sole responsibility of the indigenous women, such as health, women are usually not invited to mixed consultations.

Violence against women

The prevalence of traditionalist patriarchal attitudes and values, known as machismo, is emphasised by many interlocutors, male and female, and this perpetuates a culture of violence against women.

Violence against women is unanimously recognized as a severe and widespread problem, which requires urgent action at all levels. The Working Group was informed that women and girls suffer from violence in all spheres of their lives, including home, schools, work and public spaces. In 2012, about 37% of women reported having been victim of physical or sexual violence and, according to the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, only 4 out of 10 cases are actually reported. This constitutes one of the highest rates of violence against women in the region.

Legal and programmatic measures taken by the Government to deal with this plague of violence against women have been fragmented, dealing separately with domestic violence, femicide, rape and assault (under the Criminal Code) and sexual harassment. Furthermore, Peru has yet to harmonize its Penal Code with the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which includes a broad range of sexual violence crimes as crimes against humanity. The Working Group was informed that lesbian and trans-gender persons suffer from considerable violence, harassment, stigmatization and exclusion.

However, lesbians and trans-gender were not adequately protected under the National Human Rights Plan (2014-2016) and the National Plan on Gender Equality (2012-2017). Emergency centres have been established by the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, which are to have a multi-disciplinary staff to prevent violence against women and assist victims; we visited a very impressive model centre in Ayacucho. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has a gender focus program regarding prosecutions for sexual offences. However, the collection of evidence, including forensic evidence, arrest, prosecution and punishment have not been effectively carried out, at all the levels of the law enforcement and judicial systems. The Working Group considers it necessary to establish an integrated legislative policy, exemplary sanctions and to intensify prevention mechanisms, including gender sensitive training of criminal law enforcement officers.

Reproductive health

The Working Group was made aware that there is a strong conservative religious influence over political decision-making bodies and in public opinion. This affects in particular women’s family and reproductive life which impacts their entire well-being.

It was brought to the attention of the experts that exceptions to the criminalization of abortion are restricted to therapeutic abortions, which have been classified, under a recent protocol, as including danger to the pregnant woman’s health as well as danger to her life. However, the exceptions to the criminalization of abortion do not include danger to mental health, rape, incest and severely impaired or non-viable fetuses. In its concluding observations on Peru CEDAW reiterated its concern that abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest is criminalised and that the restrictive interpretation of therapeutic abortion may lead to unsafe and illegal abortions. Indeed, although there are no official data, academic research estimated that there were 376,000 illegal abortions in 2004.  

The rate of teenage pregnancies remains alarmingly high. In the age group of 15-19 years old, 22% of girls in rural areas and 10% in urban areas have already given birth. According to the World Health Organisation, teenage pregnancy is highly risky with greater probabilities of complications or death. Access of girls under 18 years old to public health contraception is not permitted except where accompanied by a guardian, which deters teenage use of contraceptives.

The Working Group is concerned about discrimination against women in poverty as regards reproductive rights. The Constitutional Court prohibited free distribution of emergency contraception, although private pharmacies are allowed to sell it to those who can afford to pay. There is also a failure to maintain an adequate supply of contraception in the public health system. Illegal abortions are allegedly available in private clinics, in Peru or abroad, where they may be conducted at a much higher level of safety. Furthermore, a high number of forced sterilizations were carried out in the 1990s as a form of birth control for women in poverty and there has been no redress or prosecution so far.

Political participation

The political participation of women has increased as a result of the 25% quota for political parties, introduced by law in 1997, and increased to 30% in 2001. However, women’s participation in Congress, after steadily increasing to 29.2% in 2006, fell to 21.5% in the 2011 elections. None of the 25 regions is currently headed by a woman. Only 4,6% of mayors are women. There is a proposal to amend the quota requirements to prevent political parties evading the law.

There is an increased number of women in high political office, including the Speaker of the Congress, the President and Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers as well as other Ministers and Vice-Ministers. The Working Group received allegations of pervasive harassment of women politicians, hampering equal participation of women in political life. It seems clear that an effective quota system must be implemented at the national, regional and municipal levels and measures must be taken to prevent harassment of women in politics.

Women’s economic lives

Regarding women’s economic opportunities, the gap between men’s and women’s income is 33%. As many as 78.4% of working women are in informal work, resulting in precarious work, without social security, annual leave, maternity leave or breastfeeding breaks and without secured health coverage or occupational pensions. The Working Group considers the further creation of jobs for women in the formal sector an urgent necessity.

In the formal labour market, despite article 26 of the Constitution on “equal opportunity without discrimination” and despite the 2000 Law No. 27270 which criminalises discrimination, there is a very low level of awareness of women’s right to equal employment opportunities and the right to equal wages for equal work and work of equal value.  Victims of discrimination do not feel empowered to take civil action to enforce their rights. There is no comprehensive labour law framework. Furthermore, discrimination against women in employment is institutionalised in feminized sectors, such as domestic work and the agro-export and craft industries. In these sectors, employees are given significantly reduced rights by law as regards minimum wage and hours of work. These rights are often not provided by employers and are not enforced.  In some sectors such as the agro sector, it has been alleged that women employees are humiliated, such as being forced to use diapers since they are not allowed to take breaks to go to the toilet. The Working Group recommends that the Government take urgent measures to ensure decent work for all women employees. It should enact an Equal Employment Opportunity Law, repeal all legal provisions allowing reduced minimum rights for feminized work; and should ratify the ILO Protection of Domestic Workers Convention.


The Working Group commends Peru for its significant achievement in reaching gender parity in primary education. However, at the secondary school level, although the drop out for girls is not much higher than that for boys, the impact of drop-out on girls’ economic potential is harsher as, without secondary education, they will have few work opportunities outside the home. Although Law 29600 requires that pregnant girls and teenage mothers be enabled to continue their education in school, there are still problems of stigmatization, discrimination, and prejudice, which, together with the burden of child care, contribute to school drop-out.  

In the highlands and the jungle, children have to cover long distances to reach schools and girls are exposed to abuse and violence on their way to school. Furthermore violence against girls in schools is a serious problem, including sexual violence by teachers. The Working Group was informed that the Government has adopted a series of legal and policy measures to address this problem and that some teachers have been convicted and sentenced to jail and others are being prosecuted. The Working Group visited an exemplary public school in Lima which introduced gender sensitive and sex education of girls and boys from their earlier years and it regards this as a good model.

The Working Group is of the opinion that serious investment in education in remote areas is required to ensure the continuation of girls’ education through secondary school. Incentives and other support should be provided to those who teach in remote areas to overcome the acute lack of teachers in areas where often there is one teacher for an entire school. Other alternative arrangements such as State-funded girls’ boarding schools might be considered in order to offer families, together with family awareness raising programs, a safe and empowering environment to girls who are otherwise excluded.


The Working Group welcomes the Government’s efforts to introduce universal health coverage. The official figures state that 67% of the population has 80% coverage. However, it was made aware that there was limited availability of adequate health care and that coverage does not in practice mean access to timely diagnosis, treatment and medication in the public health service. The Working Group was informed that domestic workers, who have an income beneath the minimum wage, are effectively excluded from the Integral Health System (SIS) because on one hand, they cannot register for SIS as formal employees (whether because of their employer’s refusal to register them or because they cannot afford to pay 13% of the minimum wage in order to register), while, on the other hand, they do not qualify for SIS as destitute persons.

Access to justice

Many interlocutors informed the Working Group that Peruvian women, especially rural and indigenous women, still face major barriers when navigating the formal justice system including cost, distance and language barriers, lack of knowledge of their rights, a distrust of the judiciary and the police as well as the re-victimization and threat of social sanction or stigma if they approach the justice system.

Although the Government has made some efforts to make the justice system gender responsive, legislation on discrimination is dispersed among numerous laws and there are still no clear mandates and procedures to be followed by the police and throughout the justice system to enforce these laws. The Working Group heard repeated complaints of mistreatment of women, based on gender stereotyping and prejudice, by police and officials of the justice system. 

Despite efforts to increase the number of women in the police and judiciary, there is a blatant absence of women in the higher echelons of the justice system.  For example there is only one women amongst the 7 justices on the Constitutional Court, only three woman out of 19 permanent justices in the Supreme Court and only one woman of the 6 Counsellors in the National Council of Magistrates (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura).  There is no gender commission in the Supreme Court or the Council of Magistrates such as those in most Administration of Justice Systems in Latin America, to ensure the appointment of women judges and monitor the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the jurisprudence of the courts. The Working Group observed that there is no sustained and effective attempt at sensitizing judges on gender issues. The experts were repeatedly told that judges and other court officials appear to have no gender sensitivity and do not treat women as subjects of rights.

The Working Group was informed that the crimes against women during the 1980-2000 internal conflict have not been adequately compensated or punished.  Reparations, required by the 2005 National Reparations Plan, have not been systematically provided to all, leaving many women and children who lost male members of their family without adequate compensation. As regards the victims of systematic rape and sexual violence, only a very few of the many cases have been prosecuted, and there have been no convictions. Furthermore, the associations of families of the disappeared demanded that the crimes against women be classified as crimes against humanity, as a basis for the prosecution of perpetrators. Recent efforts to obtain forensic evidence regarding the disappeared should be expedited and the amount of compensation paid to the families should be substantially increased in accordance with the recommendations of the Truth and Conciliation Report and the Reparation Commission.


The country has achieved rapid and sustained economic growth and is considered an upper middle income country. However, its Human Development Index has not improved and there are high levels of regional poverty.  The extractive industries have been observed as having devastating social and environmental consequences, which result in disparate, pervasive and extreme gendered harm to women, who have experienced them as a form of violence to them and their cultural heritage. They are deprived of their land and livelihoods, clean water and agricultural production, girls’ are often exposed to rape and prostitution in the Amazon and highlands and women and girls who are forced to leave are vulnerable to sexual and labour exploitation in the cities.

Economic development has not brought decent work opportunities for the vast majority of the population. An extremely high percentage of working women are in informal work, thus exposed to economic insecurity and lack of social security or maternity benefits. In the formal labour market, the right to equal employment opportunity for women is not enforced and, indeed, discriminatory conditions in feminised sectors are institutionalised.

The Working Group noted with appreciation the existence of a quota system for women’s political participation. This system has not however guaranteed participation of a sufficient number of women in Congress and it has not been applied to the regional and municipal levels, where it is much needed. The judicial system has not adopted a gender sensitive policy either in the appointment of judges or in judicial attitudes. Women do not enjoy proper access to justice as victims of discrimination or as victims of violence.

The Working Group welcomes the fact that the Government has instituted a variety of legal and policy measures to address the alarming level of violence against women and girls.. However, the measures taken have not been comprehensive, budgets for implementation and enforced are inadequate and the problems remain acute.

The Working Group urges the Government to step up its efforts in combating racism and stereotypes deeply rooted in Peruvian society and disseminated in the media, in particular against indigenous, peasant communities and Afro-Peruvians. It must address the machismo prevalent in Peruvian society, which oppresses women and silences them. It must eliminate  violence against women, discrimination in the enjoyment of reproductive rights against women in poverty and discrimination in economic opportunities for women.

Our findings and recommendations will be developed in a comprehensive way in the report that we will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2015.”


The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice was created by the Human Rights Council in 2011 to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is also tasked with developing a dialogue with States and other actors on laws that have a discriminatory impact where women are concerned.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts: the Current Chair-Rapporteur Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom), Alda Facio (Costa Rica), Kamala Chandrakirana (Indonesia), Emna Aouij (Tunisia) and Eleonora Zielinska (Poland). Learn more, log on to:

Including Act No. 30068 (2013), amending the Criminal Code and the Penal Enforcement Code with a view to preventing, punishing and eradicating femicide; Act No. 29600 (2010), on school reintegration of pupils who are pregnant and/or young mothers; Act No. 29430 (2009), amending Act No. 27942 on the prevention and punishment of sexual harassment; Act No. 28983 (2007) on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men; Act No. 28950 (2007) to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants

Including the National Plan on Human Rights Plan (2014-2016), the National Plan for Gender Equality (2012-2017), the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2011-2016), the National Plan to Combat Violence against Women (2009-2015) and the Multisectoral plan for the prevention of teenage pregnancy (2013-2021)