Combined third and fourth periodic reports dated 27 September 1995
Peru is the third largest nation in South America, with an area of 496,225 square miles (1,285,216 square km) and a population of nearly 25 million.1 Quechua Indians are the largest ethnic group and constitute nearly half of the total population; mestizos (mixed indigenous-European) make up more than one-third, followed by whites and Aymara Indians.2 There are minority populations of blacks and Asians, particularly Japanese.3 Spanish and the indigenous languages (Quechua, Aymara and others) are official languages, but nine-tenths of the population speaks Spanish.4 The mestizo-Hispanic population and culture dominate in the Pacific coastal region, and the indigenous populations inhabit the Andean highlands.5
During the two consecutive terms of President Alberto Fujimori, Peru has achieved success in stabilizing the economy and neutralizing the two leftist guerrilla organizations, the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path; SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA).6 However, political violence and socioeconomic problems continue to plague the country. The Fujimori government's authoritarian style and militarization are more likely to aggravate than alleviate the country's problems. Allegations against the government include domestic espionage, wiretapping, rampant corruption, torture, and harassment of political opponents and journalists.7
Government and Politics
Civilian government was restored in Peru in 1980 after twelve years of military rule, and it inherited serious problems of inflation, unemployment, and foreign debt. In addition, rural terrorism by SL and later by the MRTA, increased considerably in 1980s. According to experts, the first three civilian governments unwittingly contributed to the strengthening of the groups through an initial reluctance to take them seriously and to involve the military.8 In the context of economic chaos and the growing guerrilla insurgency, Fujimori, a mathematician, was elected president in 1990. Fujimori won the voters over with the campaign promise that he would put the burden of economic recovery on the wealthier groups in the society in contrast to the economic "shock therapy" proposed by another candidate, famous writer Mario Vargas Llosa.9 Within weeks after his inauguration, however, he announced economic reforms identical to those that Llosa had proposed. Based on these new policies, subsidies of basic food items and caps on utilities prices were eliminated, causing a rapid and uncontrollable increase in prices that impacted primarily on the poor.
In April 1992, Fujimori carried out an "auto-coup," suspending the constitution and dissolving Congress, regional governments, assuming control over the judiciary10 and announcing an "emergency government of national reconstruction"11 to make the country "safe for democracy." Although the government attempted to prove that society supported the coup by mounting a televised campaign, independent polls indicated that the blatant disregard for democratically elected institutions and process in fact was opposed by a large part of Peruvian society. The coup also met with wide international condemnation.
The 1993 Constitution adopted by the new, ruling party-dominated Congress granted enhanced executive power to the president and allowed for reelection to a consecutive 5-year term.12 In the 1995 presidential election, Fujimori finished far ahead of his closest challenger, former UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. Congresswoman Lourdes Flores, among others, warned that "reelecting Fujimori is no guarantee of stability" and said that his victory signifies the crisis of Peru's traditional parties and "disenchantment" of the voters.13
A subsequent constitutional amendment, passed in August 1996 despite considerable opposition, made it possible for Fujimori to run for a third term in 2000. When the Constitutional Tribunal decided that Fujimori could not seek a third presidential term, Congress dismissed three of its seven members, and its president resigned in protest.14 The tribunal had been created only a few months earlier to decide the constitutionality of government acts.15
Fujimori's autocratic style has both positive and negative impact. His influence with the military enabled him to push forward economic reform and contain the activities of the SL and the MRTA. At the same time, he has been accused of tolerating killings and torture perpetuated by paramilitary groups and rising corruption in state companies.16
Harassment of Journalists
Fujimori's government has taken actions aimed at curtailing press freedom. In 1997, the government revoked the citizenship of Baruch Ivcher, an Israeli-born Peruvian who ran the television station Frecuencia Latina, which was critical of Fujimori.17 In 1998, Ivcher was declared not to have been properly naturalized in 1984, thus not entitled to control a television station. When Ivcher lost an appeal, and the pro-government minority shareholders moved to take control of the station on 19 September 1997, many of the journalists walked out in protest.18
According to the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists, Peru is one of the most dangerous places to practice the profession. Committee to Protect Journalists figures indicate that between 1988 and 1997, eighteen journalists have been murdered in Peru. Peru's National Journalists' Association announced that there had been an alarming increase in the cases of press freedom violations in this country in 1997. Eighty nine violations (including 23 physical attacks) were reported in 1997, compared to 19 cases in 1996.19 In 1998, the opposition accused country's intelligence services (Army Intelligence Service; SIE) of harassment and threats against journalists as information surfaced implicating them in attacks and surveillance against the opposition media.20 Journalist Jose Arrieta requested asylum in the US claiming that he was threatened and pressured to give sources of information about crimes committed by Peru's intelligence service.21 The Lima correspondent of the Argentine daily Clarin, Angel Paez who runs the investigative unit of the Lima opposition paper La Republic has been harassed.22 Radio journalist Isabel Chumpitaz Panta, who advocated peasant rights in northern Peru in her program The People's Voice, and her husband were murdered in April 1998. According to the local mayor and opposition figures, the murder was part of a nationwide campaign intimidation and terror.23
Economic Reforms and Labor Rights
The government's structural reforms initiated in 1990 ( privatization of public companies, ending subsidies, and liberalizing labor laws) reduced hyperinflation and achieved an average GDP growth rate of four percent in the last five years.24 Nevertheless, after seven years of the implementation of the neoliberal economic program, most Peruvians are in a worse situation that they were twenty years ago25 and unemployment and extreme poverty persist. The official unemployment rate stands at about ten percent but it is estimated that more than half of the economically active population works in the informal sector of the economy, and forty-five percent of the population live in poverty. 26
Economic reforms have seriously undermined labor rights. The labor reform law, titled "Employment Promotion Law," was introduced in 1995. Under the law, companies can hire young people for thirty percent of their work force without considering them employees or paying social security.27 Companies may unilaterally change work schedules, conditions, and wages, and they may suspend collective bargaining agreements for up to ninety days. Women workers lost the benefit of an hour-long break each day to breast-feed children up to one year of age and the also dropped the requirement of employers with more than twenty five female employees to provide a nursery. In April 1996, a new labor law introduced more labor market "flexibility" under which, for instance, annual paid holidays and industrial accident compensation are no longer guaranteed but are subject to bargaining with employers.
Fujimori's military-authoritarian rule has trapped Peru in a vicious circle. In his attempts to destroy the SL and the MRTA, Fujimori adopted ruthless measures. In 1992, he set up the "faceless" courts, where judges sitting behind screens and with their voices electronically altered, tried suspects of terror. More than 4,000 people have been jailed for terrorism, often on dubious evidence and with little due process.28 Human rights groups estimated that at least 700 to 1,000 individuals are unjustly imprisoned on terrorism and treason charges.29
Although in October 1997, the Government decided to stop using "faceless" courts, civil trials for terrorism remain behind closed doors. Moreover, the secret military courts will continue trying guerrilla leaders for treason, and the judicial process will remain unreformed.30 A special ad hoc committee for pardons was established in October 1996 to consider the cases of those jailed by mistake, but the pardoned prisoners cannot eradicate the false terrorist charges from their criminal records, nor sue for civil damages.31
The government has promised to tackle pervasive military and police abuse of detainees and other civilians. To this end, in 1998, a law was passed that classifies torture as a crime against humanity and proscribes a severe penalty.32 Officials have promised that the armed forces and the national police will intensify their training efforts so that their officials do not engage in torture or other abuses of authority.33 It remains a question how much these measures will salvage Peru from the vicious circle of political violence.
Both the seventeen-year-long guerrilla war and the government's harsh countermeasures have had a profoundly negative impact on Peruvian society. Sociologist Flavio Solorzano points out that one of the negative effects of the civil war is the adoption by common criminals of weapons and violent modes of crime like those used by guerrilla groups.34 The Fujimori government's tactic of fighting violence with violence has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the government to make genuine efforts to lead the country toward a more democratic and humane order. In fact, the current government has a strong military color. It is an alliance between Fujimori's forces, the National Intelligence Service (SIN) headed by Vladimiro Montesinos (a former army captain), and the military leadership headed by Commander in Chief of the Army, General Nicolas de Bari Hermoza Rios.35 Some analysts point out that the military solution to the hostage crisis in 1997 was actually a political necessity for the Peruvian government because a peaceful political solution would have sent a message to the Peruvian people they no longer needed so much military power for the country.36
Poverty, exploitation of child labor and violence are commonplace in Peruvian children's lives. Children remain one of the most disadvantaged groups. Millions of children suffer from malnutrition and live in extreme poverty. School enrollment is very low. Only fifty-nine percent of children between the ages of six and eleven attend school, and only twenty- seven percent of those between the ages of twelve and seventeen.37 A recent government labor study found that eight percent of the work force was between the ages of six and fourteen.38 Child labor is commonly used in the agricultural sector and in informal gold mining.
The Fujimori government has few resources available to ensure equal treatment of the disabled under the constitution even though the number of the disabled has increased as a result of the years of violence during the SL and MRTA insurgencies.39 There is no law mandating access to buildings for people with disabilities. Serious employment discrimination has reduced many to begging in the streets.
The large indigenous population faces pervasive discrimination and social prejudice. Because of geographic isolation and lack of government commitment, indigenous people are generally excluded from decisions affecting their cultures, traditions, lands and other resources. For instance, even though indigenous languages, are recognized as official, they are not taught in schools. Indigenous groups also complain that the government does not consult them regarding using their lands for development projects.40 In the three-year war between Peru and Ecuador, the rights of the indigenous peoples were seriously violated without being offered any compensation.41
STATUS OF WOMEN IN PERU UNDER SPECIFIC CEDAW ARTICLES:
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN - Convention Articles 3, 5, 6, 12, 15, and 16
An estimated 25,000 women become are victims of rape in Peru annually, and the majority of are under fourteen years old.42 In April 1997, Congress repealed a law that allowed rapists to escape criminal prosecution by marrying the victim.43 The mid-1880s law, with a 1991 addition that also protected co-defendants in a gang rape as long as one of them married the victim, often contributed to pressure on the victim to marry her abuser by families who treated rape as family disgrace.44 Many men, especially in rural and poor areas, have taken advantage of the law to avoid punishment for rape.
According to recent press reports, growing crime in Peru, a result of poverty and unemployment, affects mainly women. In addition to being the most frequent victims of car theft and assault, in Lima women report five cases of rape daily.45 According to Congresswoman Lourdes Flores Nano, the court system still does not take women's testimony seriously. Rape victims often are put through a humiliating process of repeated medical examinations and they are required to confront the attacker in court.46 Statistics show that rapists often manage to avoid prosecution. For instance, in 1996 out of 13,660 reported cases of rape, only 2,311 perpetrators (one in eight) were brought to justice.
POLITICAL AND PUBLIC LIFE - Convention Articles 7 and 8
Only thirteen out of 120 congressional seats are currently occupied by women. A recently approved electoral law establishes a quota requiring that twenty-five percent of all congressional candidates for all political parties be women. Most parties, however, traditionally have proposed few female candidates, and in presidential election of 1995, no list of candidates had more than fifteen percent women. The United Left had the lowest proportion, of 4.2 percent. 47 According to psychiatrist Marta Rondon, "political machismo is alive and well." Additionally, feminist lawyer Giulia Tamayo pointed out that parties often pressure female members to adopt masculine stereotypes.48
HEALTH CARE AND FAMILY PLANNING - Convention Article 12
Family Planning Program
About two-fifths of Peru's population is younger than 15 years of age. The high birth rate led to the establishment of the family planning program in September 1995 aimed at slowing down rapid population growth and tackling widespread poverty. However, instead of improving contraceptive services for women, the program has favored tubal ligation as the primary measure. State medical workers have been under pressure to fulfill quotas for tubal ligations (between eight and thirty six per month). While at the start of the program in 1995, there were 10,000 sterilizations per year, the number increased to 30,000 in 1996 and to 110,00 in 1997.49 Poor rural women, often illiterate and speaking only an indigenous language, have been targeted for sterilizations. They often have been coerced into agreeing to have tubal litigation or given cash or clothing in exchange for consent to undergo the procedure without being informed of other options and of the consequences. Although in February 1998 the Peruvian government promised to end the use of quotas and coercion, the Population Research Institute, an international non-profit research and education organization, has suggested monitoring efforts to ensure that the Peruvian government keeps its promise.50
In March 1998, the US House of Representatives began investigation of forced sterilizations in Peru because of evidence that food subsidized by USAID was used to coerce women to undergo sterilizations. A Peruvian woman, Victoria Esperanza Vigo Espinoza, told the US House committee about her case. Espinoza, mother of two, was sterilized without her authorization following the death of her newborn in April 1996. The doctors informed her after the fact that they had performed tubal ligation to prevent her from getting pregnant again.51
RURAL WOMEN - Convention Article 14
The situation of rural indigenous women in Peru is one of the worst in Latin America. In addition to receiving a very low level of educational services, resulting in a high illiteracy rate, women suffer social marginalization due to their ethnic, linguistic and cultural background. Rural women in Peru have the highest fertility rate in Latin America and have, on average, 6.2 children. At the same time, maternal mortality of rural women is alarmingly high, at 448 for 100,000 live births, compared to the average of 261 deaths per 100,000 live births in the country as a whole.
Rural violence and poverty have contributed to mass migration of men to urban areas in search of work and led to a high rate (twenty percent) of female-headed households in the countryside. These women are responsible not only for taking care of the family but also for providing for them materially.
State services are almost nonexistent in the countryside. Rural women do not have an easy access to the courts, medical care and other social services. The government has not designed any special programs specifically targeting women in rural zones.52
PREVIOUS REVIEW BY CEDAW:
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Peru : Peru. 31/05/95. A/50/38, paragraphs 398-451.
Suggestions and recommendations:
REVIEW OF PERU BY OTHER UN TREATY BODIES:
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child : Peru. 18/10/93. CRC/C/15/Add.8.
Suggestions and recommendations:
Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture : Peru. 26/07/95. A/50/44, paragraphs 62-73.
Suggestions and recommendations:
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination : Peru. 22/09/95. A/50/18, paragraphs 194-204.
Suggestions and recommendations:
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Peru : Peru. 18/11/96. CCPR/C/79/Add.72. 1.
Suggestions and recommendations:
Concluding observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : Peru. 16/05/97. E/C.12/1/Add.14
Suggestions and recommendations:
2 Ibid. back
3 "Peru," Britannica Online, Internet, available from http: //www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=micro/461/22.html, accessed on 21 April 1998. back
4 Ibid. back
5 US Department of State, Background Notes: Peru, September 1997. back
6 The 17-year guerrilla war waged by the SL and the MRTA has claimed more than 30,000 lives and forced 600,000 people to flee the countryside. Although the activities are condemned at most levels of the society, their protests call attention to the negative effects of the economic reforms on the society. On the other hand, the military is also criticized for its tactics in fighting the guerrillas which often include disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and illegal detentions. back
7 David Scott Palmer, "Peru's Caudillo-Style Leader." Christian Science Monitor,: 20:3, 20 August, 1997. back
8 Deborah Poole and Gerardo Rénique, Peru: Time of Fear (London, UK:Latin America Bureau, 1992), 5. back
9 Ibid., 21-22. back
10 "Peru," Britannica Online, Internet, available from http: //www.eb.com:180/cgi bin/g?DocF=micro/461/22.html, accessed on 21 April 1998. back
11 Deborah Poole and Gerardo Rénique, 159. back
12 Ibid. back
13 Sally Bowen, "Grateful Peruvians Give Fujimori a Lopsided Win," Christian Science Monitor, 11 April 1995, p. 6. back
14 Anthony Faiola, "Fujimori as Emperor: No Longer Just a Joke." Washington Post, 11 August 1997. back
15 US Department of State, Background Notes: Peru, September 1997. back
16 Peter Grier and Alex Emery, "Peru Hostages Rescued, Raid May Mark New Era of Using Force Against Terror," Christian Science Monitor, 24 April 1997, on-line. back
17 "Fujimori's Heavy Hand." Los Angeles Times, 16 July 1997. back
18 "Ivcher," Latin America Weekly Report, 31 March 1998 back
19 "Journalist Who Championed Farmers Killed in Peru," AAP Newsfeed, 8 April 1998, Nexis, 19 May 1998. back
20 Abraham Lama, "Politics-Peru: New Scandal Over Army Intelligence Service," Inter Press Service, 20 March 1998, Nexis, 19 May 1998. back
21 Ibid. back
22 "Journalists Killed," Latin America Weekly Report, 21 April 1998, Nexis, 19 May 1998. back
23 "Journalist Who Championed Farmers Killed in Peru." back
24 Abraham Lama, "Development: Social Problems Persist in Peru," Inter Press Service, 20 April 1998, Nexis, 15 May 1998. back
25 David Scott Palmer, "Peru and Ecuador Juggle Democracy and Free-Market Reforms," Christian Science Monitor, 4 March 1997, on-line. back
26 US Department of State, "Human Rights Country Reports: Peru." back
27 "Mixed response to Peru labor reforms," UPI, 29 July 1995. back
28 "Shining Again: Peru," Economist, 25 October 1997, 345(8040): 34. back
29 US Department of State 1997, "Human Rights Country Reports: Peru." back
30 Ibid. back
31 Jane Diaz-Limaco, "Woman Wins Fight for Release in Peru." Guardian, 18 October 1997. back
32 Abraham Lama," Rights-Peru: Torture Part of the System or a Legacy?" Inter Press Service, 6 February 1998. back
33 Ibid. back
34 Abraham Lama, "Urban Violence Growing in Peru," Inter Press Service, 8 January 1998. back
35 Javier Diez Canseco, "The Peruvian Crucible: Reflections of a Hostage," NACLA Report on the Americas, Sep-Oct 1997, 31( 2): pp. 6-9 back
36 Ibid. back
37 US Department of State, "Human Rights Country Reports: Peru." back
38 Ibid. back
39 Ibid. back
40 Ibid. back
41 Abraham Lama. "Indigenous Peoples: the Invisible Victims of War." Inter Press Service, 7 March 1995. back
42 "Justice in Peru?" Women's Health Journal 2/97: 16. back
43 "Marriage No Longer Protects Rapists in Peru," Associated Press, 5 April 1997, on-line, Nexis, 15 May 1998. back
44 At least 15 other Latin American countries have similar laws. back
45 Zoraida Portillo, "Poverty, Unemployment, Terrorism Affects Lima," Inter Press Service, 31 March 1998, Nexis, 15 May 1998. back
46 Mariella Salla, "Celebran día internacional de la mujer rural," Mujer/Fempress (January 1998): 1. back
47 Abraham Lama, "Politics-Peru: Women Lag in Presidential Election Poll," Inter Press Service, 12 March 1998, Nexis, 15 May 1998. back
48 Ibid. back
49 "Peru's Population Program," Indianapolis News, 11 March 1998, Nexis, 14 May 1998. back
50 "Population Group Praises End of Peruvian Sterilization; Urges Deeds Match Promises." PR Newswire, 26 February 1998. back
51 Keith Russell, "Does the US Back Sterilizations? Insight, 23 March 1998, Nexis, 16 May 1998. back
52 Mariella Salla, "Celebran día internacional de la mujer rural," Mujer/Fempress (December 1997): 1. back
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