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Women in Peru

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Women in Peru

Women in Peru represent a minority in both numbers and legal rights. Although historically somewhat equal to men, after the Spanish conquest the culture in what is now Peru became increasingly patriarchal. The patriarchal culture is still noticeable. Women receive less pay than men, have fewer employment and political opportunities, and are at times abused without repercussion. Contraceptive availability is not enough for the demand, and over a third of pregnancies end in abortion. Maternal death rates are also some of the highest in South America.

The Peruvian Government has begun efforts to combat the high maternal mortality rate and lack of female political representation, as well as violence against women. However, the efforts have not yet borne fruit.


Andean civilization is traditionally somewhat egalitarian for men and women, with women allowed to inherit property from their mothers. After the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire, the culture became more patriarchal; and the resulting society has been described as being machista.[1][2]

During the internal conflict in Peru beginning in the 1980s, some families became matriarchal, with approximately 78 percent of migrant families being headed by women. In shantytowns, women established soup kitchens (comedores) and worked together to ensure that their families received enough food to eat.[1][3]

The abuses during the conflict have caused both mental and physical problems in women. Identification papers, necessary for the execution of civil rights like voting, were also destroyed en masse. As of 2007, approximately 18.1 percent of Peruvian women are living without the necessary documents, as opposed to 12.2 percent of men.[4] Even today, women from indigenous tribes may be treated disrespectfully by authority figures. The same applies to poor women.[5]

Forced sterilization

Forced sterilization against indigenous and poor women has been practiced on a large scale in Peru. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, published in 2003, notes that during the internal conflict in Peru, there were numerous cases of women being forcibly sterilized - also, another estimated up to 300,000 mostly rural women were sterilised under deception or with insufficient consent in the 1990s as part of a campaign intended to combat poverty.[6]

President Alberto Fujimori (in office from 1990–2000) has been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity as a result of a sterilization program put in place by his administration. During his presidency, Fujimori conducted a program of forced sterilizations against indigenous Quechuas and the Aymaras women, under the guise of a "public health plan".[7][8]


School girls in Peru

Female literacy is lower than male literacy in Peru: only 84.6% of females (15 and older) are literate, compared to 94.9% of males, according to 2007 estimates.[9]

Indigenous women of Peru travel less than men. As such, they tend to be less fluent in Spanish, the national language of Peru. This may lead to difficulties when they must speak with outsiders, who often do not speak the indigenous language.[5] Although women have a higher illiteracy rate than men, an increasing number of women are receiving higher education.[1]


Women are a slight minority in Peru; in 2010 they represented 49.9 percent of the population. Women have a life expectancy of 74 years at birth, five years more than men.[10]

Latest estimates suggest that the population of Peru is Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%.[11] More than 8 out of 10 people are Catholics.[11]

Although Peru has an ethnically diverse population, discrimination by ethnic lines is common, particularly against amerindians and blacks; gender often interacts with ethnic origin; this may mean that "an indigenous woman may only ever work as a maid".[12]

Maternal and reproductive health

Quechua woman and child in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Women who live in poverty are less likely to give birth in a health center or be attended by a health care worker.[13] Peru has one of the highest maternal death rates in South America, with the government noting 185 deaths per 100,000 live births, and the United Nations estimating the number at 240 per 100,000 live births. In order to combat those high figures, the government released a strategic plan in 2008 to reduce the total to 120 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.[14]

Of these maternal deaths, 46 percent occur during the first six weeks after birth.[15] Amnesty International notes that economic discrimination is one of the factors, with women in affluent areas receiving better health care than those in rural areas. Gender and ethnic discrimination in health care also exist.[16]

Hemorraging (dark blue) is the leading cause of maternal death in Peru

According to the 2007 census, the causes of maternal death in Peru were as follows:[15]

  1. 4074B4; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Hemorrhage 40.5%
  1. AF3738; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Other 23.8%
  1. 85A548; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Pre-eclampsia 18.9%
  1. 725496; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Abortion-related 6.1%
  1. 44A9C3; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Infection 6.1%
  1. F88739; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Unknown 1.8%
  1. 8DAAD7; color:black; font-size:100%; text-align:center;">  Obstructed birth 0.9%

The age of consent in Peru has changed several times during recent years, and has been subject to political debates,[17][18] but today it is fixed at 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation, in accordance with a 2012 decision of the Constitutional Court of Peru.[19] Teenage pregnancies are not uncommon. They are often the result of rape by a male relative.[20]

When giving birth, indigenous mothers may avoid going to clinics due to unfamiliarity with the techniques used. They instead prefer to use traditional practices, with which they are comfortable. [5]The lack of health staff able to speak indigenous languages is also a problem.[21]

Although contraceptives are used in Peru, they are more common in urban areas. An estimated 13.3 percent of women in rural areas are in need of contraceptives that are unavailable, as opposed to 8.7 percent of urban women.[22] Although therapeutic abortion is legal,[23] and an estimated 35 percent of pregnancies result in abortion,[20] regulation and implementation has been controversial, with the only clear guidelines (in Arequipa) withdrawn under pressure from anti-abortion groups. There have been instances where mothers have been forced to carry babies to term at large personal risk.[23]

The HIV/AIDS rate in Peru was estimated in 2012 at 0.4% of adults aged 15–49.[24]

Family life

Girl with her alpaca near the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru

By law, Peruvian women must be 16 years old to marry;[10] prior to 1999, it was 14. A 2004 survey by the United Nations estimates that 13 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 19 have been married. In marriage, the husband and wife share responsibility for household affairs. In approximately 25% of marriages, finances are handled by the husbands;[10] in some other families the mother is the head of the household.[2] Some ethnic groups, such as the Asháninka, practice polygamy.[1]

Despite the fact that married Peruvian men occasionally openly take lovers, divorce is difficult to obtain, although not uncommon.[1] In a divorce, custody of children under the age of seven is generally awarded to the mother. Custody of those over seven is generally awarded by gender. If a parent is deemed unfit, the children can be sent to live with the other parent.[25]

Domestic violence

The OECD notes that women in Peru are subject to abuse, with almost half suffering from violence. The most common form of abuse is psychological. There are also reports of female genital mutilation as a rite of passage during puberty.[25] The government has attempted to address the issues, establishing the National Programme against Family Violence and Abuse in 2001, and passing a law requiring local authorities to deal with domestic abuse and stipulating punishments for rape and spousal rape.[10] Legal action against perpetrators of abuse is slow and ineffectual.[20] In 1999 Peru repealed the law which stated that a rapist would be exonerated, if after the assault he and his victim married.[26]

The principal law dealing with domestic violence is Ley de Protección frente a la Violencia Familiar (Law for Protection from Family Violence).[27] It was first enacted in 1993, has been strengthened in 1997, and thereafter modified several times, in order to broaden its scope: by 2010, this law had already been amended five times.[28]


The majority of rural women work in farming,[1] or take care of household chores.[2] On average, they earn 46 percent less than male workers.[29]

Beginning in the 1990s, women increasingly entered service industries to replace men. They were hired because the employers could pay them less and believed that they would not form unions. During that period, labour rights were revoked for women workers.[30]

In 2014, the UN noted that despite the fact that the economy of country was improving, women continued to be discriminated and to suffer violence.[31]

Gender equality

A woman in Lima, Peru

Discrimination based on gender is forbidden by the government of Peru, and a piece of legislation was passed in 2000 that outlawed discrimination. The Social Institutions and Gender Index.[10]

Informal land-dispute resolution systems are common, and rural women are often discriminated.[32] Women's access to land is not well protected; in 2002, only 25 percent of land titles were given to women, and under an "informal ownership" system the husband may sell property without his wife's consent.[25] In 2014, new laws have improved the access of indigenous people to land.[33]

Politically, women in Peru have been subordinated to men and had little power. Twenty percent of those elected in 2001 were women. Female politicians are often from richer families, as women from a lower income bracket must deal with housework.[34] Recent laws have required a quota of representatives in Congress to be women. Despite this, the levels of women's political representation remain below the 30% quota target.[35] As of 2014, there were 22.3% women in parliament.[36]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barrett 2002, p. 83.
  2. ^ a b c Crabtree 2002, p. 11.
  3. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 46.
  4. ^ Amnesty International 2009, pp. 26-27.
  5. ^ a b c Amnesty International 2009, p. 22.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c d e OECD 2010, p. 128.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 25.
  14. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 11.
  15. ^ a b Amnesty International 2009, p. 20.
  16. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 12.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b c Crabtree 2002, p. 67.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 40.
  23. ^ a b Amnesty International 2009, p. 41.
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b c OECD 2010, p. 129.
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 10.
  30. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 44.
  31. ^
  32. ^ http://usaidlandtenure.nets/default/files/country-profiles/full-reports/USAID_Land_Tenure_Peru_Profile.pdf
  33. ^
  34. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 33.
  35. ^
  36. ^

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