Peru: Will a Woman Make a Difference?

Women in Peru are still highly discriminated. With the upcoming presidential elections, things could be finally changing
Lima Peru city - Congress Building

Writing about the upcoming Presidential elections in Peru carries numerous emotions. There is a countless list of demands and needs of a population that is affected by daily violence and corruption and tired of the same old songs. Will a woman make a difference?

To start with,  the National Elections body has established  that each government plan should incorporate a gender perspective in addition to an intercultural approach. Political parties must include their agenda on equal opportunities, identity and intergenerational relationships. It was also pointed out that the gender perspective must include not only the situation of women but that of the LGBT community which breaks a traditional binary gender approach.

Comments and arguments are sparking in social media. Feminist lawyer and Constitutional Law specialist, Jeannette Llaja, has attracted many readers to her Facebook page as well as through different articles and interviews. She makes reference to compelling statistics like the following:

  • 18,900 people reported being victims of crimes against sexual freedom (Public Ministry, 2014) * Between January 2009 and August 2015, 772 cases of intimate femicide (Public Prosecutor) * 7 of 10 women reported were victims of some type of street harassment (PUCP 2012) * 7 in 10 women have been victims of psychological violence and 3 in 10 of physical violence by an intimate partner (DHS 2014).

Taking this situation into consideration Llaja discusses the promotion and strengthening of the national system for the prevention, punishment and eradication of violence against women and household members, the need to strengthen the National Programme to Combat Domestic and Sexual Violence. These questions are only regarding specific issues of domestic violence. There is no proper budget and interest on behalf of the legislators and officials in charge and she doesn’t want the situation to continue.

Moreover, the situation  regarding  the  workspace  and  conditions  shows  that  women  are  still highly discriminated.  Peruvian women spend almost half of their working time doing  unpaid work (52%), while men only spend 24% (ENUT 2010) * 28.7% of urban women and 33.5% in rural areas not It has own income, while in the case of men it is 14.8% in the city and 15.7% in rural areas. In relation to health issues, last year the government created a registry of victims of forced sterilizations done during the government of Alberto Fujimori. According to data released in 2002 by Peru’s Health Ministry, 260,874 women had tubal-ligation operations between 1996 and 2000 and only 10% gave consent. The Ombudsman office recommended to compensate all those sterilized without their consent and urged the judiciary and officials to investigate all cases of forced sterilization. Time has passed and everybody is tired of getting promises which are never fulfilled.

The Peruvian political scenario has always been characterized for the search of a “savior”. That was clearly seen years ago when Eng. Alberto Fujimori became President of Peru. People believed that somebody with an influence of Japanese culture, depicted as culture of intelligence and hard work combined, could result. It was not a surprise that Fujimori was elected three times but everybody was shocked when his third term ended with his resignation whilst he was abroad. After this experience voters discussed the possibility of a female President – why not? – which may become true this year. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Fujimori and former First Lady, has been active in politics for several years now and is currently leading the polls with 31.8%.

There are other female Presidential candidates in the Peruvian scenario.

Former Ombudsman, Beatriz Merino said in an interview with the newspaper El Comercio that she does not rule out her candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic. When asked if she would be President of Peru in the near future, Merino replied that the decision will depend on the Peruvians.

“My relationship to power is that of a public servant. Nothing motivates me more to life than the representation of the most vulnerable Peruvians because I think the population has to decide their own issues”, Merino said.

“Peru must be a country that aspires to become a First World country; we must build up strong institutions, through a liberal proposal that is gathering momentum in our history. Liberalism has so far not had a chance “, Merino added.

Nadine Heredia, the present First Lady has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.

The Vice President and Congressman of the political party Gana Peru, Omar Chehade, was the most enthusiastic in supporting Heredia’s candidacy , noting that the Constitution does not prohibit you to run being a family member of the president. However, Article 107 of the Elections Act does prevent that possibility.

Presently Nadine Heredia is the target of criticism due to high expenditure and allegations of corruption; however her supporters insist that Heredia has many unique qualifications in relation to other wives and First Ladies.

Peru needs a President who can stand firmly against corruption and become a defender of human rights. Female candidates are expected to address gender issues convincingly, but Keiko Fujimori already expressed that on the situation of forced sterilizations the ones to blame are the medical practitioners, defending her father’s version that all operations were done with the consent of women. Some of the doctors who refused to perform the operations have clearly expressed they were given orders.

2016 will be a crucial year for Peru in terms of good governance and democracy. The country is ready for a female President but female candidates must be ready to become not only  President but one with a strong commitment to fulfill the pending demands of Peruvian women.

Rossana Karunaratna

Rossana has 25 years of experience working with civil society, government agencies, higher education institutions and international organisations in Peru, her country of birth and in Sri Lanka as tutor and consultant. Her areas of expertise include peace building and conflict transformation, human rights, gender (women’s rights and domestic violence), state-civil society relationships and inter-marriage and citizenship. She lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
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