Violence against women has failed to decline in the Latin American region after the sharp rise recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, while preventing the causes of such violence remains a major challenge.
No woman in Peru should have to die, have her physical or mental health affected, be treated as a criminal or have an unwanted pregnancy because she does not have access to abortion, said Dr. Rocío Gutiérrez, an obstetrician who is the deputy director of the Manuela Ramos Movement
, a non-governmental feminist center that works for gender rights in this South American country.
Lourdes Barreto, 47, says that as an agroecological small farmer she has improved her life and that of Mother Earth. "I love myself as I love Mother Earth and I have learned to value both of us," she says in her field outside the village of Huasao, in the highlands of the southern Peruvian department of Cuzco.
"My father was very ‘machista’, he used to beat my mother... It was a very sad life," said Dionisio Ticuña, a resident of the rural community of Canincunca, on the outskirts of the town of Huaro, in the southern Peruvian highlands region of Cuzco more than 3,000 meters above sea level.
"When the pandemic hit, I stopped studying, just when it was my last year of school…My parents couldn't afford to pay for internet at home," said Rodrigo Reyes, 18, one of the nearly 250,000 children who dropped out of school in 2020.
"Without recognition of your identity by the State and society, there is no exercise of citizenship or rights," said Leyla Huerta, director of Féminas Perú, an organization that has been working since 2015 to empower transgender women in the face of the highly vulnerable situation they find themselves in.
Banning the use of the same bathroom, insults and calling people animals are just a few of the daily forms of racism experienced by people in Peru, a multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual country where various forms of discrimination are intertwined.
In the afternoons he draws with chalk on the sidewalk of a downtown street in the Peruvian capital. Passersby drop coins into a small blue jar he has set out. He remains silent in response to questions from IPS, but a nearby ice cream vendor says his name is Pedro, he is 11 years old, and he draws every day on the ground for about four hours.
"They mustn’t stop looking for her," said Patricia Acosta, mother of Estéfhanny Díaz, who went missing on Apr. 24, 2016, along with her five-year-old and eight-month-old daughters, after attending a children's birthday party in Mi Perú, a town in the coastal province of Callao, next to the Peruvian capital.
"I always express myself in Quechua and I don't feel I’m less of a person," said Elías Ccollatupa, 47, who has been a bilingual intercultural teacher for more than two decades in the Chinchaypujio district, one of the nine that make up the province of Anta, in the department of Cuzco, in the southern Andean region of Peru.
"We are not asking for money, but for our health, for a dignified life," is the cry of the people of Choropampa, which lawyer Milagros Pérez continually hears 22 years after the environmental disaster that occurred in this town in the department of Cajamarca, in Peru´s northern Andes highlands, on the afternoon of Jun. 2, 2000.
"Water is part of our culture, it is intrinsic to the Amazon," said José Manuyama, a member of a river defense committee in his native Requena, a town located in the department of Loreto, the largest in Peru, covering 28 percent of the national territory.
Women entering the political arena in Peru face multiple obstacles due to gender discrimination that hinders their equal participation, which can even reach the extreme of political harassment and bullying, in an attempt to force them out of the public sphere.
"Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her," says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not hit everyone equally and employment has shown a clear gender-differentiated impact. Two years after the start of the pandemic, it is more difficult for women than men to recover their jobs, and this is clearly reflected in Latin America.
It's nine o'clock in the morning and Mauricia Rodríguez is already peeling garlic to season the day's lunch at the Network of Organized Women of Villa Torreblanca, one of more than 2,400 solidarity-based soup kitchens that have emerged in the Peruvian capital in response to the worsening poverty caused by the partial or total halt of economic activities in the country due to COVID-19.
"When I was a little girl we didn't suffer from water shortages like we do now. Today we are experiencing more droughts, our water sources are drying up and we cannot sit idly by," Kely Quispe, a small farmer from the community of Huasao, located half an hour from Cuzco, the capital of Peru's ancient Inca empire, told IPS.
"The level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this…I am not pessimistic about the future," said Gladys Acosta, president of the CEDAW Committee, in an interview with IPS in the Peruvian capital.
Despite significant legal advances in Latin American countries to address gender-based violence, it continues to be a serious challenge, especially in a context of social crisis aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic, which hits women especially hard.
"During the pandemic, sexual violence against girls has grown because they have been confined with their abusers. If the home is not a safe place for them, what is then, the streets?" Mía Calderón, a young activist for sexual and reproductive rights in the capital of Peru, remarks with indignation.
In the highlands near the capital of Peru, more than 3,000 metres above sea level, ageold water recovery techniques are being used to improve access to water for 1,400 families, for household consumption and for crops and livestock.