University of Minnesota

Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru,
Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106,
Doc. 59 rev. (2000).






1. One very important indicator of respect for human rights is how a society treats its children. A society respectful of fundamental rights provides liberty and dignity to children and creates the conditions in which they can develop their full potential.

2. Despite improvements in Peru's economic indicators generally in recent years,[1] there have not been major improvements in the situation of children. According to the development index for children devised by the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics of Peru, 16 of Peru's 24 departments are at low or very low levels in the development of children, which is a matter of concern.[2]

3. The Commission has received complaints on serious situations that affect the rights of children and adolescents in Peru, of which special mention can be made of child labor, the situation of juvenile delinquents, and the high infant mortality. In this context, the Commission, in this chapter, studies various important aspects related to the situation of Peruvian youth.


1. International legal framework

4. The American Convention on Human Rights, ratified by Peru in 1978, establishes at its Article 19: "Every minor child has the right to the measures of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his family, society, and the state."

5. In 1990, the Peruvian State ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international instrument adopted in 1989 under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). That Convention sets forth the theory of the best interests of the child and comprehensive protection for children, recognizes rights that are specifically children's rights, and provides guidelines to ensure the effective implementation of these rights.[3]

6. The Convention on the Rights of the Child worked a change in the old paradigms in respect of children, and an opportunity to devise new forms of intervention. The child, hitherto conceived of as a passive subject of protection by the State, came to be seen as an active subject endowed with rights.

2. Domestic legal framework

7. The 1993 Constitution of Peru states at Article 4: "the community and the State afford special protection to children, adolescents, mothers, and the elderly who have been neglected. In addition, they protect the family and promote marriage. They recognize in the family and marriage natural and fundamental institutions of society...."

8. The main national legislation on children is the Code of Children and Adolescents, promulgated in 1992, by which Peru incorporated into its domestic legislation the new standards on rights of the child contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This new code is aimed at overcoming the doctrine regarding the "irregular situation of the minor," based on the doctrine of "comprehensive protection," the basic concept of which is that children and adolescents are subjects at law. In this new conception, society is organized through social mechanisms that include children and adolescents. This new system seeks to protect them fully, as subjects at law.

9. The Code organizes the National System of Comprehensive Services, made up of the Lead Agency (Ente Rector) and the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and Adolescents. As part of implementing that Code, in 1995, the Law of the National System of Comprehensive Care for Children and Adolescents was promulgated. Later, the functions of the Lead Agency were transferred to the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Human Development (PROMUDEH).[4]

10. The Peruvian State has also promulgated several laws related to children concerning issues such as protection from family violence, military service, sexual violence, the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status, and adoption.

11. In general, Peru has a solid and broad legal framework, both international and national, which, together, has adequate standards with respect to the rights of the child. A large part of those provisions, however, do not apply to the real situation of most Peruvian children. In this chapter, the Commission analyzes some of the specific problems affecting Peruvian children, after first noting several aspects in respect of which progress has been made.


12. The Commission was informed of several plans that have been developed by the Peruvian State in recent years with a view to improving the situation of children.

13. Decree No. 003-97 PROMUDEH of May 22, 1997, for example, approved the National Plan of Action for Children 1996-2000. The objective of that plan is to promote and ensure the full application of the rights of children and to contribute to the strategy for combating poverty. In addition to the national, regional, and district plans, there are specific development plans for each sector, such as, for example, the National Health Plan.

14. In addition, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and Adolescents has been created. It is a service of the comprehensive care system that operates in the local governments and in public and private institutions whose function is to see to the best interests of children. The IACHR received information that indicates that several Offices of Ombudsmen for the Promotion and Strengthening of Children and Adolescents have been created, for which community ombudsmen and promoters are being trained; that service networks have been formed in the departments; and that a child emergency line has been established that has helped to provide care in several cases, especially of abuse and violence.


15. Hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents are incorporated into the labor market, marginalized from education, and the victims of exploitation and abuse.

16. According to information provided to the Commission, as of the first quarter of 1996, 1.9 million children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years performed various types of labor. In Peruvian legislation, child labor is regulated mainly by the Code on Children and Adolescents, according to which the minimum legal age for working in Peru is 12 years, one of the lowest in Latin America.[5]

17. The Commission was informed that approximately 1,500 to 2,000 children "live" in the street, mainly in Lima, exposed to the many risks this entails. This situation is generally the result of violence and abuse in the family, as well as socioeconomic factors. It is noted that the ratio of boys to girls among those living in the street is 9 to 1, whereas the average age of boys and girls is 11 years and 13 years, respectively. In this context, the girls are victims of sexual exploitation when, for their "survival," they have recourse to prostitution, which presents itself as an option for meeting their most basic survival needs.

18. Although forced labor is strictly prohibited, reports were lodged with the IACHR alleging the existence of this practice in remote regions of the Andes and the Amazon jungle. In addition, it has been noted that approximately 4,500 youths under 18 years of age work in difficult conditions in the informal-sector gold-panning sites in Madre de Dios.

19. The numbers of children and adolescents who work in Peru has yet to be established with precision. Peru does not have registries for this purpose, which should be kept by the municipal governments in coordination with the Ministry of Labor and PROMUDEH.

20. Peru has not ratified Convention 138 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which requires that the States set a minimum age of 15 years for entering the labor market, and that this minimum be increased gradually to 18 years. This omission may help weaken the legal basis for eliminating child labor.[6]

21. The Commission was informed by experts that although the legislation establishes that registration for compulsory military service is required from age 18, in recent years there have been many cases of levies or forced recruitment of persons under 18 years of age in several parts of the country, particularly in border areas and rural areas of the interior.


22. One of the aspects that presents major problems in Peru is related to the legislative treatment of juvenile delinquents. Even though the Code on Children and Adolescents had brought Peruvian legislation into line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, drawing a distinction between social policy and criminal policy, and setting forth the defense and recognition of the rights of children and youth, for example, reforms to that Code have resulted in backsliding in this area.

23. Thus, Decree-Law No. 895, "Law against Aggravated Terrorism," reduced the age of criminal liability from 18 to 16, and established penalties including prison sentences of not less than 25 years, in violation of Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which imprisonment shall only be used as a last recourse, and for the shortest time. Decree-Law No. 899 established imprisonment for six years for children and adolescents ages 12 to 17 years who participate in "pernicious gangs," thereby amending the Code on the Child, whose original wording provided for a maximum prison term of three years as an ultimate measure for aggravated violations. Experts in the field told the Commission that this Decree is clearly repressive and that it fails to acknowledge the social problem of violence among youths; that it establishes vague and imprecise definitions of criminal conduct; and that it recurs to state repression as the main form of control and punishment.

24. In Peru, children and adolescents who break the law continue to be incarcerated in penitentiaries for adults, with whom--as they are in the same penitentiary--they share common spaces. In addition, the IACHR verified that children held in preventive detention are at such centers. The IACHR was also informed that at the adult penitentiary at Cuzco one finds children held with adults, and that it is reported that recently an adolescent was murdered, while two tried to commit suicide.

25. The IACHR also received information according to which the prisons under the administration of the judicial branch do not meet the minimum standards for youths accused of serious crimes. Those prisons do not have pedagogical programs for recovery nor adequate levels of internal and external security; there is inhuman physical and emotional treatment, and persons who have committed serious crimes are held with persons who have committed minor violations. In its observations on this part of the report, the State noted that the Youth Centers of Lima are working with a new approach in order to bring about the social re-adaptation of the detainees. Similarly, the State indicated that this prison policy is part of the overall reform to the judicial system.


26. Despite the efforts of the Peruvian State, high indices of infant and maternal mortality persist. In this respect, the development indices drawn up by the World Bank in its World Development Report estimate infant mortality at 40 per 1,000 live births.[7] For its part, the report of the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos on the situation of economic, social, and cultural rights in Peru[8] estimates that mortality of children under 5 years is 65 per 1,000 live births.[9]

27. Acute respiratory infections constitute the leading cause of death in children, especially pneumonia. Malnutrition is still high due to the deficient diet and high morbidity, caused mainly by diarrheal and infectious diseases. According to the first national census of height of first graders (1993), 48% of children ages 6 to 9 years suffered chronic malnutrition; this situation is more critical in males (54%) and in the rural area (67%). The department with the highest malnutrition was Huancavelica (72%), and the lowest were Tacna (18%) and Callao (20%).[10]


1. That the Peruvian State adopt joint and immediate actions to ensure realization of the rights established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in all other national and international provisions on the matter.

2. That education campaigns be carried out on the rights of the child, aimed at various sectors of society, especially judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police, and children.

3. That efforts continue to achieve the goals of the National Plan of Action for Children, especially those goals aimed at reducing the main causes of infant mortality, training families in self-care of children's health, strengthening the capacity of the public hospitals, and disease prevention campaigns.

4. That efforts be stepped up to include children in the educational system who are not receiving an education at school, and that an ongoing effort be made to improve the quality of primary and secondary instruction.

5. That the systems for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of indicators on the situation of children and adolescents be strengthened.

6. That Legislative Decrees No. 895 on "Aggravated Terrorism" and No. 899 "Pernicious Gang Activity" be modified at those parts that constitute violations of the provisions of international human rights law.[11]

7. That Convention 138 of the ILO be signed and ratified, and that forceful actions be developed to eradicate child labor.[12]




[1] See Chapter of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra.

[2] This development index considers a set of dimensions relating to unmet basic needs in the home, malnutrition, low educational development, the lack of recreational spaces, and early incorporation of children into the work force.

[3] The Convention on the Rights of the Child consists of 54 articles organized in four major groups of rights: (1) Survival: corresponding to the right to grow up healthy and to enjoy adequate food, housing, and medical services; (2) development: these are the rights to guarantee the living conditions necessary for full human development; (3) protection: these are the rights to be protected and to safeguard them from any abuse, exploitation, or abandonment; (4) participation: these are the rights of children to express what they experience, think, and feel, and to be heard in matters that affect their own lives, and the lives of their family and community.

[4] PROMUDEH is in charge of policies and programs relating to women, children, youth, the elderly, and the indigenous groups.

[5] Grupo de Iniciativa Nacional por los Derechos del Niño, Gin, La Situación de los Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes en el Perú -- 1999, Lima, 1999.

[6] In its observations to the draft report, Peru mentioned a series of provisions that regulate child labor in terms of age and number of hours daily, as well as the need to obtain permits to work. For example, the Peruvian State noted that the minimum age for working may differ based on the activity in question. For agricultural workers, it is 14 years, for industrial, commercial, or mining establishments it is 15 years, and for industrial fishing, 16 years.

[7] See Chapter on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra.

[8] Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Working Panel on Economic and Cultural Rights, Report parallel to the Report by Peru submitted to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its session of April 28 to May 16, 1997.

[9] On this point the State observes that in Peru infant mortality dropped from 57.2 to 42.6 per 1,000 live births from 1990 to 1997.

[10] See: Pan American Health Organization, La salud del niño y adolescente, Análisis de la Situación de Salud en Perú. This study can be found at the following Internet address: <>.

[11] With respect to this recommendation, the State has noted the change brought about by Law 27,235, which modified Legislative Decree No. 895. This law changed the name of the offense from "aggravated terrorism" to "special terrorism," with the regular civilian courts having jurisdiction over such offenses. Nonetheless, no change has been made in the age at which one may be liable; rather, it remains at 16 years, in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In any event, still pending is the modification of the crime of "malicious gang activity" ("pandillaje malicioso"), found in Decree 899.

[12] The State has noted in its observations to the draft report, that in March 1999 it forwarded to the Congress of the Republic ILO Convention 138, in order to follow through with the constitutional procedure for the approval of treaties.


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