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Violence Against Women in Peru: A Broken Society, and an Even More Broken Justice System



In the first week of 2023, seven women were murdered in Peru.[1] To some, this news would be shocking; but in Peruvian society, it is an everyday occurrence. Gender-based violence in Peru is a pressing human rights issue that is normalized and dismissed by society and the state. Despite efforts such as the creation of Law No. 30364 to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women and family members in 2015, women continue to face gender discrimination and violence at alarming rates.[2] To make matters worse, the state perpetuates the violence by failing to implement the law, thereby failing to provide women with the protection and justice they deserve.


The statistics from the first week of 2023 are far from exceptional. They follow a pattern that can be traced over many years. In 2022, more than seventeen thousand Peruvian women experienced psychological, sexual, physical, or economic violence.[3] Femicide (the murder of women because of their gender) by their partner or family members tends to be the final manifestation of violence, often occurring after a string of examples taken from the aforementioned list.[4] In 2022, 131 women lost their lives due to such violence.[5]


The creation of Law No. 30364 in 2015 represented a significant milestone in the Peruvian state's efforts to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against women, as it finally established a law against gender-based violence. The law can be divided into two parts: the first part (the main stage) seeks to protect the integrity and life of the victims; while the second part (the penal stage) seeks to identify and sanction the aggressor.[6] Despite this milestone, the sad reality is that the law is not being implemented appropriately - and women are losing their lives as a result.


Peruvian women start to be let down by this law from their very first contact with it: in the police station. Every police station, particularly those specialized in family matters, receives verbal or written denunciations of violence against women.[7] The law requires police staff to immediately fill in a Risk Assessment Sheet to determine the potential danger faced by the victim. They should then conduct a preliminary investigation, which must be sent to the Family Court within 24 hours.[8] However, what is outlined de jure is not implemented de facto, because cases of violence against women are not given the attention that they need within the police force. In 2017, a police station census revealed that only 5.9% of police officers spend time on investigations related to domestic matters like gender-based violence as their main activity.[9] In fact, the same census revealed that 55.8% of staff in family police stations have not been trained in caring for victims of violence.[10] This lack of training and infrastructure has dramatic consequences that are felt directly by Peruvian women who, unsurprisingly, feel intensely dissatisfied when trying to seek assistance from law enforcement authorities. 59% of women believe that police stations do not provide a comfortable environment in which to make denouncements because they lack privacy; and 62% do not trust the actions of the police.[11] The very institutions and laws that are meant to protect women are failing to provide them with the necessary support, resources, and, ultimately, justice that they deserve.


The 2015 law also states that discriminatory judgments by police officers based on gender stereotypes are illegal at every stage.[12] However, victims of violence are often asked questions during the investigation process that fail to meet this criteria. Police officers tend to focus on women's behavior, rather than the behavior of the aggressor. The use of leading questions during investigations (such as "If she talked back to her partner") reinforces pernicious gender stereotypes. It normalizes violence against women by implying that such violence is an appropriate means to discipline and correct women's behavior.[13] When justice operators frame violence in this way, they make a woman feel responsible for the aggression she receives; or, even worse, they perpetuate the aggressor’s narrative that the victim deserves to be punished. As a result, women distrust the justice system and resort to other coping mechanisms, such as remaining in the home of the aggressor. The cost may be their lives.


Later stages of the 2015 law are no more effective. These steps occur after the preliminary investigations have been passed on to the Family Courts or their equivalent entities, which proceed to evaluate the case.[14] Following this, an oral hearing is held to issue the appropriate protections and precautionary measures required to safeguard the life of the victim.[15] According to the law, protection measures should be granted within 72 hours of the pronouncement by the courts.[16] However, 57% of judges consider this time limit to be impossible to stick to, because of personnel shortages, the lack of practical material like documents and evidence, and the excessive procedural burden.[17] As a result, women are left vulnerable, with their safety in jeopardy - despite the fact that they have sought help and protection from the state.


If protection measures are passed in time, the National Police Service of Peru is responsible for enforcing them. According to the law, each police station must maintain a map that shows the referential registration of all victims who have been granted protection measures.[18] However, a police station census in 2017 revealed that 82% of police stations do not have the georeferenced mapping technologies required by law.[19] Zooming in on police stations specialized in family matters, the vast majority of these also do not have the requisite technology. 77% of police stations specialized in family matters have a manual register of victims and their protection measures.[20] This system is not only slow and prone to human error, but it also lacks the minimum required data. The failure of Peruvian police stations to comply with their legal requirements - especially those related to protection measures - perpetuates violence against women. Victims are left without adequate protection, allowing perpetrators to continue their abusive behavior without consequences, and ultimately undermining the effectiveness of the legal system for women.


The Peruvian state not only fails women when they are alive and seeking protection, but also when it is too late. The penal stage of the 2015 law is designed to take charge in cases where women have been killed on account of gender-based violence. But it, too, is not being properly implemented, as the aggressor is all too often pardoned. In the first quarter of 2018, there were 43 cases of femicide.[22] Alarmingly, data reveals that only 5% of the perpetrators were held criminally responsible for their actions.[23] These 2018 statistics are not an anomaly: they are a symptom of a wider problem, which is the culture of impunity for aggressors.


The pursuit of justice for Peruvian women is filled with challenges, as they navigate a complex system that appears stacked against them. From the moment they become victims of violence, the arduous process of seeking protection from the state is rife with shortcomings. This is not because there are no legal instruments to protect them; but rather because Law N.°30364 to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women and family members is not being properly implemented.


The Peruvian government is a passive actor and sometimes active contributor towards the violation of this critical law. This is a human rights issue: time and time again, the state is failing to fulfill its responsibility to prevent and protect women from violence. Women must be granted the protection they seek, and criminals must be awarded the sanctions they deserve. As the political stability in Peru weakens, we must make sure that violence against women is not pushed even further to the sidelines. We must continue to fight to make sure that the systematic gender discrimination entrenched in Peruvian society does not manifest itself in a weak legal system that repeatedly fails women.


Endnotes

  1. Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP), "Estadisticas del Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP)" (2019). Accessed 2023 at: https://www.mimp.gob.pe/omep/estadisticas-violencia.php.

  2. Farfan, D. and Añaños, E., Balance sobre la política pública contra la violencia hacia las mujeres en el Perú [Balance on public policy against violence against women in Peru] (Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2021), 1–102.

  3. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI), "Peru: Censo Nacional de Comisarias 2016 Resultados Definitivos" (2016-2017). Accessed 2023 at: https://www.inei.gob.pe/media/MenuRecursivo/publicaciones_digitales/Est/Lib1461/index.html.

  4. Y. Pérez, W. Hernández and E. Añaños, Segundo Reporte Del Plan Nacional Contra La Violencia De Genero 2016-2021 Avances en su Implementacion a Nivel Regional y Provincial [Second Report of the National Plan Against Gender Violence 2016-2021 Advances in its Implementation at the Regional and Provincial Level] (Lima, Lima: Defensoria del Pueblo, 2019), 1–50.

  5. National Institute of Statistics and Information - National Poll of Social Relations, 2022.

  6. M. Carrion, I. Ivanova and E. Añaños, Autonomía en la toma de decisiones, física, mental y económica [Autonomy in decision-making, physical, mental and economic] (Lima, Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2019), 1–174.

  7. D. Farfan, E. Ramos and E. Añaños, Violencia contra las mujeres: Perspectivas de las victimas, obstaculos e indices cuantitativos [Balance on public policy against violence against women in Peru] (Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2018), 1–56.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI), "Peru: Censo Nacional de Comisarias 2016 Resultados Definitivos".

  10. Ibid.

  11. Ibid.

  12. D. Farfan, E. Ramos and E. Añaños, Violencia contra las mujeres: Perspectivas de las victimas, obstaculos e indices cuantitativos, 23.

  13. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI), "Peru: Censo Nacional de Comisarias 2016 Resultados Definitivos".

  14. D. Farfan, E. Ramos and E. Añaños, Violencia contra las mujeres: Perspectivas de las victimas, obstaculos e indices cuantitativos, 20.

  15. Ibid. 22

  16. Ibid. 23

  17. D. Farfan, E. Ramos and E. Añaños, Violencia contra las mujeres: Perspectivas de las victimas, obstaculos e indices cuantitativos, 18.

  18. Ibid, 20.

  19. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI), "Peru: Censo Nacional de Comisarias 2016 Resultados Definitivos".

  20. Ibid.

  21. Ibid.

  22. Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP), "Estadisticas del Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP)" (2019). Accessed 2023 at: https://www.mimp.gob.pe/omep/estadisticas-violencia.php.

  23. Ibid.


Bibliography

Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP). "Estadisticas del Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP)." 2019. Available at: https://www.mimp.gob.pe/omep/estadisticas-violencia.php.


Encuesta Nacional Sobre Relaciones Sociales (ENARES) 2019 Principales Resultados [National Survey on Social Relations ENARES 2019 Main Results]. Lima: Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Informatica, 2019. 1–32.


Pérez, Y., Hernández, W., and Añaños, E. Segundo Reporte Del Plan Nacional Contra La Violencia De Genero 2016-2021 Avances en su Implementacion a Nivel Regional y Provincial [Second Report of the National Plan Against Gender Violence 2016-2021 Advances in its Implementation at the Regional and Provincial Level]. Lima: Defensoria del Pueblo, 2019.


Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI). "Peru: Censo Nacional de Comisarias 2016 Resultados Definitivos" [Peru: National Census of Commissioners 2016 Definitive Results]. 2016. Available at: https://www.inei.gob.pe/media/MenuRecursivo/publicaciones_digitales/Est/Lib1461/index.html.


Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI). "Censo Nacional de Comisarias" [National Census of Commissioners]. 2017-2018. Available at: Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica INEI (no date) ‘Censo Nacional de Comisarias’.


Carrion, M., Ivanova, I., and Añaños, E. Autonomía en la toma de decisiones, física, mental y económica [Autonomy in decision-making, physical, mental and economic]. Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2019. 1–174.


Farfan, D. and Añaños, E. Balance sobre la política pública contra la

violencia hacia las mujeres en el Perú [Balance on public policy against violence

against women in Peru]. Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2021.


Farfan, D., Ramos, E., Añaños, E. Violencia contra las mujeres: Perspectivas de las victimas, obstaculos e indices cuantitativos [Violence agaisnt women: Perspectives of the victims, obstacles and quantitative indixes] Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2018.


Picture from https://unsplash.com/s/photos/women’s rights taken by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona


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