|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
Chamber A, 763rd & 764th Meetings (AM & PM)
Violence against women, reproductive health, marginalized ethnic groups among concerns,
as anti-discrimination committee considers peru’s report
Director-General for Women Introduces Report,
Says Issue of Violence Now Priority, Dealt with at State Policy Level
Violence against women in Peru, women’s reproductive health, and the situation of rural and ethnic women were a source of concern for the expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today.
Commending the Government of Peru for timely reporting, the Committee took up that country’s sixth periodic report on its compliance with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in two meetings in Chamber A today. Often referred to as the International Declaration of the Rights of Women, the Convention consists of a preamble and 30 articles defining discrimination against women, and establishes an agenda for national action to eradicate such discrimination. In accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to take a series of measures to eradicate all forms of such discrimination.
Members of the Committee noted that, having introduced new legislation and certain quotas, strengthened its national machinery for the advancement of women and ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, Peru had made significant progress on gender issues, but violence against Peruvian women remained high. According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 10 Peruvian women experienced sexual violence; and 49 per cent of women in Lima had reported physical violence by a partner. In Lima and Cuzco, 1 in 4 women had reported having been injured more than five times, and 50 per cent of pregnant women in Lima had experienced physical violence during at least one pregnancy.
Engaging in a constructive dialogue with the delegation of Peru, several experts pointed out that there was a link between violence against women and prevailing sexual stereotypes. While commending the Government for having paid serious attention to the Committee’s previous recommendations that violence be punished with due speed and severity, and that zero tolerance be introduced to make violence socially and morally unacceptable in Peru, an expert noted that the Government had admitted that the situation was “not good”. That was a euphemism, as the situation was really grave.
It was not sufficient to just adopt new laws; it was necessary to examine why, despite all the measures and sanctions, progress had been so insignificant, experts said. It was also necessary to raise public awareness, particularly in the rural areas, and punish those responsible. The Government also needed to ensure that women in the cities and rural areas were on an equal footing.
Responding to those concerns, Peru’s Director-General for Women, at the Ministry of Women and Social Development, Russela Zapata, acknowledged that violence against women was manifest at all social levels and, while progress had been made, it was slow. Although the Government was “not very proud of the figures” as far as actual penalties for violence were concerned, the State and civil society were working together to promote zero tolerance for violence against women, raise awareness of the phenomenon and adopt a comprehensive system to combat violence. The main achievement was that the issue was now dealt with on the level of state policy and was being addressed as a priority. Nobody was taking rape and psychological and physical aggression as a normal situation. A social fund had been established to finance programmes against violence, with funding from mining companies.
She emphasized that efforts were being made to address exclusion, women’s health and education needs, the indifference of society and the rights of indigenous people. Cultural diversity in Peru was its greatest wealth, and integration of marginalized groups represented a high priority for the Government.
With over 70 ethnic groups represented in Peru, the Constitution recognized that different people made up the nation, she said. The State respected their differences, and the country’s Constitution acknowledged them, stating that ethnic groups’ fundamental rights could not be violated.
Also highlighted in the debate was Peru’s ban on abortion, which only allows that procedure if a woman’s life is in danger. According to the documents before the Committee, “abortion is punished, even when conception is the result of rape”. Questions were raised regarding the case of Karin Llantory vs. Peru, with several experts noting that the Human Rights Commission had ruled that the rights of that 17-year-old woman had been violated when Peruvian health officials denied her a therapeutic abortion, although her foetus carried a fatal abnormality. One of the experts said, in that regard, that it was not just a case of one woman -- it touched on the lives of many women in the country. Some 15 per cent of teenage abortions ended in death and the country had to look for a solution to the problem.
Another case had been filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 1999, after a low-income, indigenous Peruvian woman was coerced into agreeing to sterilization and died from medical complications after the surgery.
Also addressed in today’s consideration of Peru’s compliance with the Convention were the issues of women’s employment, compensation to victims of political violence, access to services, education and the impact of mining on women.
The Committee is scheduled to take up the reports of Azerbaijan in Chamber A at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 23 January.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to take up the sixth periodic report of Peru (document CEDAW/C/PER/6), which ratified the Convention in 1984.
According to the report, the problems facing Peruvian women constitute “a pressing and unfinished item on the country's agenda”, but Peru’s commitment to the advancement of women is irreversible. The State is convinced that development and the better future that it seeks to construct will depend on the ability of Peruvian women to live in a society that offers equality of opportunity, eliminating all expressions of inequity, exclusion and discrimination, and overcoming all existing inequalities between women themselves. “Achieving this task requires systematic deployment of all possible efforts on behalf of women, and the creation of partnerships between the State and civil society to overcome the obstacles that prevent women from enjoying full exercise of their human rights”.
The report was prepared by the Intersectoral Committee for Monitoring Compliance with the Convention, which began its work in November 2002 and consists of 22 institutions representing State agencies involved in this issue, as well as international cooperation agencies. The document is organized in two parts. The first contains the Peruvian State’s report on progress achieved in applying the recommendations made by the Committee in 2002. The second presents information on the State’s progress with respect to the Convention, arranged in a sequence consistent with its articles. The report also includes the text of the Convention and its Protocol, annexes with tables illustrating the status of women, and a glossary to assist readers of this report.
According to the report, the national machinery for the promotion of women’s rights includes the Ministry of Women and Social Development, which was established in 2002 as the successor to the former Ministry for the Advancement of Women, to serve as the focal point for the implementation of the Convention at the State level. The restructuring established two vice-ministries: one for women, and the other for social development. It also created the General Directorate for the Advancement of Women and the Directorate of Planning, and it incorporated the National Compensation and Social Development Fund, a social support agency, and provided that each vice-ministry was to design the policy for its area of jurisdiction. The Vice-Ministry of Women, therefore, designs policies to promote gender equity and equality of opportunity for women. The General Directorate for the Advancement of Women also has the function of incorporating the gender perspective into the plans, programmes and projects of the central Government.
Further, the provisions of the women’s Convention have the force of law in Peru. “The Convention constitutes a fully valid and current international framework for planning public policies and development activities. The advances in the policies and in the plans and programmes of the Peruvian State for promoting women relate directly to the provisions of the CEDAW, and are a domestic reflection of the agenda set forth in the Convention,” the report states.
Introduction of Report
The country’s delegation included Russela Zapata, Peru’s Director-General of Women, Ministry of Women and Social Development; Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Luis Enrique Chavez; and Romy Tincopa of Peru’s Mission to the United Nations.
Presenting the document, Ms. ZAPATA, said that efforts were being made to address exclusion, women’s health and education needs, the indifference of society and the rights of indigenous people. Cultural diversity in Peru was its greatest wealth, and integration of marginalized groups represented a high priority for the Government.
The National Equal Opportunity Plan for Men and Women 2006-2010 had been adopted in 2005 and had been operational since 1 January 2006, taking over a similar plan for 2000-2005. The new Plan was the outcome of a process of review and consultation that included civil society, including women’s organizations. The new Plan included measures to: strengthen the institutional framework and agreements among the Ministry of Women and Social Development, other ministries and regional and local governments to ensure that they incorporated the Plan’s guidelines explicitly in their management policies and tools; establish levels of responsibility for each sector and institution committed to implementing the Plan; develop a sustained gender equity and equal opportunity training programme for officials of the various levels of the public administration; and systematize the most successful State and civil society programmes and projects, in particular employment programmes.
Regarding the definition of discrimination against women, Ms. Zapata said that the Government sought to strengthen inclusive language in Peru’s legislation. Law No. 27270 of 2000 made discrimination against another person on the grounds of racial, religious or sexual differences a crime. The 2006-2010 national plan for equal opportunities for men and women contained the term of discrimination against women.
Gender issues were mainstreamed in the work of various State ministries, Ms. Zapata continued. A new amendment provided for registration of girls and boys born out of wedlock with the name of the alleged father. Peruvian legislation established severe penalties, up to a life sentence, for crimes against sexual freedom. Through the National Plan against Violence towards Women 2002-2007, campaigns to raise awareness among civil servants and judicial officials had been implemented. Training was being provided to public servants, judicial personnel, doctors, and psychologists. The national plan on human rights set the guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against women.
Another new law criminalized conduct linked to commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, specifically with regard to the user/client child sexual tourism, encouragement and promotion of sexual exploitation and trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. The Ministry of Women and Social Development, together with other public institutions and civil society, had pushed for the Peruvian Penal Code to be amended to uphold the right of children to protection from commercial sexual exploitation. A recent act amending the Penal Code provided drastic penalties in that regard. In June 2005, the Government had set up the National Intersectoral Committee for the Eradication of Forced Labour, to investigate and analyse the problem and draw up a national plan of action for the eradication of that phenomenon.
Regarding women’s participation in political and public life, she said that four laws had been introduced in Peru, setting gender quotas for candidates for political parties, high posts, local governments and congress to bridge social gaps and reduce sex-based discrimination. In this year’s parliamentary elections, of the total 120 members of Congress elected, 35 were women. At 29.1 per cent, that level of female participation was the highest in the country’s history. There were currently 6 female ministers of State, out of a total of 15. To effectively ensure greater participation by women in political and public life, the Ministry was working on a legislative proposal for submission to Congress, which, if adopted, would amend the regional and municipal elections acts to ensure that, instead of women being placed at the bottom of lists of candidates, men and women candidates would alternate on the lists according to a gender quota.
The 2003 law on education determined equal treatment and opportunities for boys and girls and provided for reversal of some discriminatory practices, Ms. Zapata said. Among other steps in the field of education, were strategic actions for intercultural, bilingual literacy and other programmes for girls and women, especially older women belonging to Andean, Afro-Peruvian and Amazonian peoples. Those programmes promoted women’s exercise of their civic rights and their incorporation in production projects. The national plan of action for children and adolescents 2002-2010 set targets with respect to the education of rural girls, seeking to ensure that 90 per cent of girls in rural areas attend and complete six years of primary education in 2010.
On the right to nationality, she said that women enjoyed equal rights with men and did not lose their nationality when they married foreigners. The Government also sought to strengthen implementation of policies to reduce maternal and post-natal mortality. Some 80 per cent of births now took place after prenatal care. The Government’s other programmes included efforts to provide microcredit for women, combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and improve women’s access to health services.
According to the country’s responses to a pre-session working group’s questions, gender-based employment discrimination remains one of the most negative aspects of the country’s labour market, manifesting itself in the concentration of female workers in a limited number of sectors and occupations that are considered typically female, as well as a small number of women in leadership positions. That was an important determinant of the wage differentials between men and women.
In conclusion, Ms. Zapata said that, aware of the fact that much more needed to be done for the advancement of women, the Government reaffirmed its will to empower women. It would continue to ensure that women’s participation at all levels of power became a reality.
Opening the first round of questions, HANNA BEATE SCHÖPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, commended the Government for its timely reporting. That did not happen automatically. Peru was very much on time. She also commended Peru for having ratified the Optional Protocol, and invited the Government to accept the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention, which lifted the restriction on the Committee’s working time.
Turning to Peru’s Constitution, she asked if the prohibition of “sexual differences” referred only to men and women or if it included the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. She also wondered if the Constitution contained a provision which clarified that special temporary measures were not discriminatory. She also applauded the Government on the adoption of several laws on quotas in the election process, as well as a number of programmes with quotas for women. She was concerned, however, that the information provided under article 4.1 of the Convention did not reflect the Committee’s understanding of special temporary measures. The establishment of a Ministry for Women was a general policy.
Another issue was use of the term of equality and equity, she said. Both terms were found in Peru’s report. The Convention referred to equality. Equity in legal terms meant fairness, which did not include equal rights. Were both terms being used interchangeably? In Beijing, conservative forces had tried to substitute equity for the term equality. She was also somewhat worried about references to indigenous women and the development of projects through the affirmation of indigenous cultural and equitable gender relations from the standpoint of Indigenous people’s “own world view”. Was that world view the same as the one contained in the Convention? If it was not the same, did the Government realize that that approach was in conflict with article 5, paragraph 1 of the Convention, which asked for elimination of sex-role stereotypes. It also opened the door for cultural relativism, or putting the human rights of groups over the human rights of individuals, thereby undermining the Convention.
SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, said the Committee had expressed its concern that violence against Peruvian women remained high. In 2002, it had urged the Government to guarantee that such violence would be punished with due speed and severity. The Committee had also recommended that the Government conduct zero tolerance campaigns to make violence socially and morally unacceptable in Peru. In that regard, she wondered if laws had been promulgated that considered domestic violence as a crime and provided sanctions for the perpetrators. According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 10 Peruvian women experienced sexual violence. On domestic violence, the same study noted that 49 per cent of women in Lima had reported physical violence by a partner. In Lima and Cuzco, 1 in 4 women had reported that they had been injured more than five tines, and 50 per cent of pregnant women in Lima had experienced physical violence during at least one pregnancy.
In that regard, what efforts were being made to enforce the States’ laws and policies and to address the issue of impunity with respect to sexual and domestic violence against women? she asked. She also asked if mechanisms existed to record cases of sexual and domestic violence. Women did not often report violence, as they were ashamed or thought they would not be believed.
CEES FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said that while, he appreciated the fact that the report described Government’s commitment as “irreversible”, the report emphasized the creation of equal opportunities for women and men. That was a somewhat limited understanding of the Convention. It was not enough to guarantee equal treatment. The Convention also obliged States parties to realize substantive equality or equality of results, and not just equality of opportunities. He referred the Government to general recommendation 25, in which the Committee had made an effort to elaborate on the object and purpose of the Convention.
He also commended Peru for having ratified the Optional Protocol at such an early stage, by which Peruvian women and organizations might submit complaints about alleged violations of their rights to the Committee, after the exhaustion of local remedies. In that regard, he wondered what local remedies existed for women. Was it correct that judges were reluctant to use international law? For many women, accessing justice was difficult, due to the expenses involved. In that regard, he wondered if training programmes for lawyers and legal aid programmes existed. Indigenous women’s access to legal services also required translation services. The Optional Protocol could only be an important “milestone” if its obligations were complied with.
VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, also applauded the Government for achieving progress in certain areas. She was happy to see that the Ministry of Women and Social Development had been strengthened, both organizationally and functionally. She also noted that the focus on women had shifted to a focus on gender equality and that the more traditional policies for advancing the status of women had been complemented with measures to use gender mainstreaming to promote substantive gender equality. Stressing the need for sufficient financial and human resources, she asked the delegation to provide information on the budget for the National Plan, as well as the total number of professional staff within the Vice-Ministry of Women. She also wanted to know if the financial impact of the new National Plan had been prepared and what funds were needed for its full implementation.
SHANTI DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, said she was pleased that the National Plan was based on the international agreements that Peru had entered into, including the Convention. The Government’s main obligation under the Convention was to ensure the realization of women’s right to equality and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, both direct and indirect. Looking at the Plan’s guiding principles, however, she was somewhat confused by the terminologies used, including equitable access to resources. She did not see a clear statement of commitment to ensuring equal rights in all fields. While the aim of providing for equal opportunities and access might contribute to equal enjoyment of rights, that had not been stated clearly in the report. In that connection, she asked if there were indicators for results on which the plan could be assessed.
The Convention required the elimination of all forms of discrimination in all spheres, both public and private, she added. In that regard, she did not see a broad sweep of provisions aiming to eliminate discrimination in all fields, both governmental and private. Were there programmatic activities to identify direct and indirect discrimination? Peru had many other plans, including the poverty eradication plan. How were those plans connected with equal opportunity plans? What would compel ministries to implement the plan’s requirements? she asked.
Responding to the first round of questions, Mr. CHAVEZ said Peru was a country with an indigenous background. Its ancestors had been there before the country had been colonized. They had also determined some of the features of the country’s culture. The Constitution recognized that different people made up the nation. The State recognized and respected their differences. Article 149 of the Constitution said that the authorities of the communities had jurisdictional powers within their territory in accordance with customary law, provided it did not violate human rights. In other words, the Constitution acknowledged the differences, stating that their fundamental rights could not be violated. The Constitution was clear and did not conflict with international commitments.
On the Committee’s recommendations and individual cases under the Optional Protocol, he said the acknowledgement of treaty-based mechanisms was an additional protection mechanism within the system for the protection of human rights. It was in that spirit that Peru was party to various international mechanisms for monitoring and supervision. The specific difficulties lay in the different legal status of the various monitoring provisions, including non-jurisdictional mechanisms, such as the Inter-American Committee on Human Rights, and fully jurisdictional mechanisms, such as the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
Ms. ZAPATA said the Government was concerned not only with passing laws, but with their implementation and evaluation. As of 2007, the country’s budget would be evaluated with gender indicators. One problem now was a lack of data on the use of resources for women. Peru had seven national plans, and sought policies that had a direct impact on women’s advancement. Regarding the implementation of the 2006-2010 plan, a baseline would help measure progress each year.
On actual penalties for violence, “we are not very proud of the figures,” she said. Even if sentenced, perpetrators often got out of prison quickly. The State and civil society were working together to promote zero tolerance for violence against women and raise awareness of the phenomenon. Murder of women was a particular concern. Had there been timely reporting, some of that could have been avoided.
In a round of follow-up questions, experts wondered about the cohesiveness, human resources and budgeting of the national programmes for the advancement of women. Mr. FLINTERMAN said that, if women had no access to the courts of law, their rights became elusive. He wanted to know if women had access to the administration of justice system and commented that, in general, Peruvian judiciaries were reluctant to invoke international human rights and humanitarian law.
Ms. ZAPATA said that there was some progress, but on the whole, things were not perfect. There were mechanisms in place to ensure women’s access to justice, but it was also necessary to work on the population’s mentality. The situation was particularly difficult in cases coming from indigenous communities, particularly due to the lack of translators from native languages. To address the situation, training was provided to judges and prosecutors. The Bar had free assistance programmes.
Many experts focused on violence against women. Ms. PIMENTEL said that she saw a great link between violence against women and prevailing sexual stereotypes. What measures was the Women’s Ministry developing to change the perception of women’s inferiority and “normalcy” behind women being killed, raped and abused?
HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked what was being done about the atrocities committed against women by the infamous Shining Path movement during the years of civil strife in the country. Investigation, prosecution, punishment and reparations to victims were very important to avoid repetition of violence. She wanted to know what kind of acts of violence had been recognized by the Truth Commission among those committed against women, clarifying that, as far as she knew, it had dealt only with rape. However, there were also many other forms of violence, including forced disappearances, enslavement and forced recruitment of women. How many cases had been taken up and what kind of reparations had been provided to victims?
NAELA GABR, expert from Egypt, commended the Government for having paid serious attention to previous recommendations of the Committee. On violence against women, the Government had recognized that the situation was “not good”. That was a euphemism, as the situation was really grave. New laws and measures had been adopted, but that was not sufficient. She wanted to know why, despite all the measures and sanctions introduced, progress had been so insignificant. Not enough public awareness, particularly in the rural areas, was among the reasons. Violence against women needed to be criminalized. She was bothered that, in a country where the Catholic Church played such an important role, there was no way of punishing those responsible for incest. It was important to strengthen punishment for that hateful crime. The Government also needed to ensure that women in the cities and rural areas were on an equal footing.
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, wondered about the new law on trafficking that had been mentioned by the delegation. Responding to previous concluding remarks of the Committee, the Government had provided information only about the situation of children and adolescents as far as trafficking was concerned, but nothing was said about women. She wanted to receive more information in that regard.
Responding to questions and comments, Ms. ZAPATA said that the country had some 72 indigenous groups, each requiring specific attention. The situation was far more difficult in some cultures than in others. However, no exceptions were made where there were community laws, as far as gender equality was concerned.
Violence against women was manifest at all social levels, she continued. While progress in combating that phenomenon had been made, it was slow. The main achievement was that the issue was now dealt with on the level of state policy and was being addressed as a priority. The State was coming together with civil society to adopt a comprehensive system to combat violence. Nobody was taking rape and psychological and physical aggression as a normal situation. A social fund had been established to finance programmes against violence with funding from mining companies.
Peru was a secular State, although, indeed, the Catholic Church was a strong influence, she said. The Government was clearly defining the areas of influence of State and church. Awareness campaigns at the national level were not concentrating just on the cities. Regional governments also had the authority to address the issue. Last year, November had been declared a month of non-violence against women. The media was involved in the efforts to combat violence.
Addressing the experts’ concern about access to legal justice, Mr. CHAVEZ said that, aside from the legal angle, in many cases victims did not report violence. Public awareness campaigns sought to address that issue. In indigenous and rural areas, the situation was more difficult, but the State was not equally present in all areas of the vast country. Looking forward, however, he was able to say that the situation was improving. He also added that, in the case of minors, incest was a crime, punishable by a term in prison.
Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, asked a follow-up question on the issue of incest. She, too, was from Latin America. Experts had already drawn attention to the fact that the Convention was concerned with de jure and de facto equality. What was being done to combat the phenomenon of incest, which seemed to be more extensive than what was indicated in the data? She was very familiar with the country. The Government must be most attentive in that area. It was a heinous crime -- if not the worst crime that could be committed within the family.
Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, commended the achievements on women’s political participation. Regarding the adoption of a law that required non-governmental organizations to report on their activities to the Government, he asked for more information on the background of that law and its impact on women’s organizations working in the field of promotion and protection of women’s human rights. He also asked for further clarification on the issue of nationality, which was an urgent problem. The right to nationality was crucial. He wondered, in that regard, whether the Government had set a time frame to give women nationality to help them to participate in political decision-making, including women in remote areas.
Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, also welcomed progress achieved in women’s political participation. She had learned that a number of activities existed to disseminate information on women’s civil rights. The next report should include more information on women in the judiciary.
DORCAS COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, said that, while Peru seemed to have done much on women’s political participation, the report did not provide information on women’s participation in other public sectors. That information should be broken down according to race and ethnicity, in order to see the true picture of all women in Peru. On article 9, she asked if Peruvian women had the same right to pass on their nationality to their children, especially undocumented women. The issue of documentation was critical and should be addressed at the soonest. Did foreign husbands of Peruvian women have the same rights to residence as the foreign wives of Peruvian men? she asked.
Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, also expressed concern regarding the recent Government action on compulsory registration of non-governmental organizations when they received international funding. Such a measure was like turning the clock backwards. The Government should form healthy partnership with non-governmental organizations, and not impose restrictions on them. She, too, welcomed the entrance of more women in the political arena. She commended the application of quotas for women, especially in the congress. The same should be done in other areas, including the administration and the judiciary. The presence of women in those areas was important. Did the Government have goals and time frames to achieve that?
Ms. ZAPATA said the issue of the non-governmental organization law was a delicate matter. While she would provide a more concrete answer this afternoon, she noted there had been a register of non-governmental organizations for some time. There was a need, however, to make the process more transparent in terms of information and what was done by civil society.
On the issue of nationality and identity documents, she said the 2005 census had confirmed that more than one million people in Peru were without documents. It was an enormous problem and had become one of the strategic objectives of the past and present Governments. The goal was to document all women. Six per cent of yearly births were not registered. The Government was generating the unique identifier code, something which already existed in other countries. It was also simplifying administrative procedures, with roving campaigns in areas with the most undocumented people.
Continuing, she said some 30 per cent of those people were in the Amazon, while the rest were in the high Andes and the suburbs. Many civil registries had been burned during the conflict. It was a central priority of the Government. In some cases, there were four and five generations without documentation. “We are trying to solve this,” she said. A mother with no papers would generate children without papers. The right to exist was the most basic right. Without that right, there could be no other rights. The Government was in the process of gathering precise statistics on the matter.
Regarding women in public life, she said two women had been Attorney General. Peru was also broadening the gender quota to regional representation and at the local level. The teams that organized budgets at the regional and local level were working with them to include gender quotas.
Addressing the same issue, Mr. CHAVEZ noted that the Constitution established the fact of birth. A Peruvian was Peruvian by birth. The register of birth was an accessory to the fact of birth. It was not that nationality was questioned because the birth had not been registered. The registration problem in no way affected the right to nationality at birth. Another matter was that of migration, not only within Peru, but from Peru abroad. That in no way diminished the State’s obligation to protect citizens’ fundamental rights, including nationality. There was no difference with regard to the rights of foreign spouses, be they men or women.
Focusing on women’s health, several experts expressed concern regarding the status of the reproductive health of Peruvian women, particularly adolescents. In particular, questions were asked about steps to address the consistently high level of maternal mortality in Peru, particularly among rural women and adolescents; pregnant teenagers’ right to schooling; and adolescents’ access to contraceptives without parental permission.
Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, stressed that the Convention required that all women have access to services in connection with pregnancy, childbirth and prenatal care. They were also supposed to have access to counselling and family planning. In its general recommendation on women and health, the Committee had affirmed that access to health care, including reproductive health, was a basic right of women. What action was the Government taking to ensure access to reproductive health services to all women, especially in rural areas, improve quality of care, and disseminate the right to health care? She also had questions in connection with a case of forced sterilization mentioned in the report and wondered about the implementation of the directive of Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal about the State obligation to guarantee free access to emergency contraception.
Questions were also raised regarding the case of Karin Llantory –- a 17-year-old woman, who was refused a therapeutic abortion -- with several experts noting that the Human Rights Commission had deemed those actions to be a violation of her right to life.
In that connection, Ms. DAIRIAM said that, although the recommendations of such human rights bodies as the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women were not binding, the Government still had an obligation to address the violation of human rights that had occurred.
She noted that abortion is illegal in Peru and can only be performed to save the life of the mother. According to the documents before the Committee, “abortion is punished, even when conception is the result of rape”. The Constitution of Peru considers the unborn child to be a subject of law in all matters that benefit it, and those provisions are echoed in the country’s Penal Code.
She also commented on the fact that the national plan for adolescents and children aimed to reduce teenage maternal mortality by 55 per cent and significantly reduce teenage pregnancy. However, no significant change in the rates had been reported by the Government. She wanted to know the current rate of maternal mortality among teenagers and asked if the Government had assessed the reasons for the reduction not taking place.
Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said she had information from a United Nations agency that, while the health situation had improved, the situation was still a subject of concern and required further measures. How did the Government plan to improve health services, particularly for indigenous women? On the issue of abortion, she noted that, in her country, Egypt, Islamic sharia was the legal code. Abortion was legal in three situations, namely cases of rape, when the health of the mother was poor and when there were questions concerning the condition of the foetus. What possibilities existed in regard to abortion in Peru?
Ms. COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, noted that the Education Act included the organization of national conferences on rural girls’ education. Two such conferences had been held during the reporting period to discuss the impact of the Education Act. How much funding had been provided and for what activities? In terms of percentage of the national budget, what percentage did that amount represent? She also requested information on girls’ enrolment and retention in indigenous communities.
Ms. ZAPATA, responding to questions on compensation of victims of political violence, said a high-level compensation commission, which reported to the Council of Ministers, was developing a programme for collective reparation. Individual cases would be treated subsequently, as they were still compiling information. The commission’s goal for 2008 would be based on a census, in order to create a single record. In 2007, some 45 million nuevos soles would be provided for the issue of collective reparations. The Women’s Ministry was part of the Council and would, therefore, stress the need for a gender approach.
Regarding human trafficking, she noted 9 out of 10 cases concerned women. A secretariat of Peruvian communities abroad connected with the Government facilitated repatriation. A permanent body against trafficking also existed. A toll-free telephone number could be used to report human trafficking. The law compelled the State to attend to victims of trafficking. The sentences were very serious, in particular when cases involved international networks.
Turning to the issue of non-governmental organizations’ freedom of activity, Mr. CHAVEZ said there had been a lively debate on the matter, not only in the congress, but also throughout society. There had been warnings on the impact of the original wording of the legislation and its impact on non-governmental organizations’ ability to operate. Changes had been the result of a broad debate. The purpose of the legislation was to supervise the use of resources that were channelled by the State from international public and private donors. Non-governmental organizations with their own private funding were not covered by the law. The law applied only to organizations that applied for State funding. The decision was simply to provide consistency in terms of the priorities allocated by the State for development. Non-governmental organizations with private funding were not covered by the law.
Regarding the issue of nationality, she noted that, when a Peruvian married a foreigner, the foreign citizen had the choice of opting for Peruvian nationality. The only prerequisite was that the person lived for two years in the country. Once that time had passed, the foreigner could request Peruvian nationality. If the spouse died, the nationalized foreign citizen kept Peruvian nationality.
On article 10, Ms. ZAPATA said there was a tremendous problem in terms of education. The Government wanted to address the issue not only of quantity, but also of quality. While there had been an increase in the matriculation rate in rural and urban areas, there was a shortfall in terms of quality. There had, however, been a considerable improvement in the circulation of educational materials throughout the country, targeting particular groups and conveying the messages of gender parity and intercultural harmony.
On another issue, she said the sexual and reproductive health programme was designed to reduce maternal and postpartum mortality. Health workers in centres around the country that did not comply with the programme’s standards were sanctioned. Women had recourse to the services of a special defender for health rights. In five regions, non-governmental organizations were carrying out supervision activities. It was not just a question of the Government supervising its own activities. There was also an audit mechanism. Young people had direct access to birth control. Yet, the maternal mortality rate was alarming. While there had been movements against the provision of birth control, those campaigns had continued unabated. A young girl did not have to abandon her studies when she became pregnant.
Mr. CHAVEZ addressed the cases of forced sterilization and denial of abortion that had been mentioned by the experts.
The Mestanza case had been filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 1999 after domestic legal remedies in Peru had failed. Mrs. Mestanza, a low-income, indigenous Peruvian woman, was coerced into agreeing to sterilization and died from medical complications after the surgery. In an amicable settlement agreement, the Peruvian Government had agreed to pay her husband and seven children a total of $109,000 -- a substantial sum in Peru. The Government also agreed to provide health insurance to the children of the victim. The part of the agreement that related to an in-depth investigation and sanctioning of the perpetrators was still pending, with an administrative tribunal dealing with the case. The case would be re-examined by the Commission at the end of February.
The Karin Llantory case came from the Human Rights Committee. It related to denial of a therapeutic abortion to a 17-year-old. In connection with that case, it was important to recall Peru’s legislation only allowed abortion when a mother’s life was at risk, but the abortion was being sought because of concern about the life of the foetus. There was a difference between the opinion of the Committee and Peruvian law. For the moment, Peru recognized the possibility of providing psychological or medical support to the victim, but when it came to actual recourse, it ran up against legal limits. The case was now before the Congress, which needed to take a decision on the matter. Later, it might be possible to add such grounds for abortion to what now existed under Peru’s legislation.
In Peru and many other countries, the debate on expanding the coverage of legal abortion tended to become highly impassioned. Whatever decision was taken, the Government would have to try to consider all the types of religious, cultural and other sensibilities. There was no clear consensus in society as to the path the country should take in terms of expanding the scope of medical abortion. But the decision of the Human Rights Committee was part of that debate. The authorities had clearly expressed their willingness to provide support to the victim.
Ms. ZAPATA added that Peru had adopted 12 laws concerning violence against women. The concept of refuge for victims was being reviewed with the goal of providing true compensation and greater benefits to the victims. Efforts were being made to provide toll-free numbers and extend round-the-clock hotline services.
On education, she said, despite financial difficulties, efforts were being made to improve not only coverage, but also the quality of education. For that reason, funds were being earmarked for training the teachers. Progress had also been made in incorporating inclusive language in all school textbooks.
Ms. SCHÖPP-SHILLING, expert from Germany, said that she was impressed with the width of projects and initiatives undertaken to overcome discrimination in the workplace and address the needs of women in the rural sector. However, she did not have a clear picture of the overall results of the Government’s efforts. A number of the projects listed in the report were clearly not gender mainstreamed. She had questions about specific programmes introduced by the Government, inspections to evaluate employers’ compliance with relevant policies, efforts to channel women away from traditional and less sustainable areas of employment, and steps to improve women’s access to land.
Ms. COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, noted that Peru’s report mentioned a study for social inclusion of indigenous groups that had been commissioned by the Women’s Ministry. Poverty was listed as a factor of exclusion, as well as intolerance in the educational system. The report listed a lot of the activities directed at Afro-Peruvian women. How was the Government addressing the discrimination and racism within and between the various ethnic groups to which the document referred?
GLENDA SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, wanted to know about the impact of mining on the country’s indigenous people and guarantees in place to protect them from exploitative practices.
Ms. ZAPATA said the initiatives of the various ministries regarding micro and small business programmes and job development had, since their inception, been based on a gender perspective. There had, however, been some interesting changes in those programmes in rural areas through regional development for micro and small enterprises. Supervision of those programmes had been very low. The new minister had called for an increase in the number of inspectors, to more effectively monitor compliance with labour standards. Under the Fujimora dictatorship, there had been a regression in terms of labour. The situation had been addressed, however. While more women were in the labour market, the wage gap had not been reduced. Peru wanted to work with large corporations that not only employed women, but also provided them with benefits.
Continuing, she said women heads of household were provided with 100 nuevos soles a month to ensure improvements in their nutrition, health care and education. Some 300,000 women heads of household would receive such funds this year. The land registry programme had not been as successful as originally hoped. Regarding minority groups and Afro-Peruvian communities, she said those groups were handled by a specific body. Racism did exist in Peru. The country had many problems to overcome. The issue of mining was also a sensitive one.
Mr. CHAVEZ added that the issue needed to be put in context. That was a traditional activity in Peru, and the starting point of colonization in Latin America. Indeed, the Spaniards had come to Peru to exploit the mines. Mining was the source of foreign exchange. To a large extent, the economy was based on mining activity. In economic terms, Peru had considerable interest in the issue of mining. Local populations were trying to influence future mining projects. For their part, mining companies had stopped mining in some regions as a result of grass-roots pressure. Ultimately, the resources belonged to the Peruvian people.
On the question of indigenous communities, he said that, while traditional activities by indigenous peoples were recognized, those practices needed to respect a certain number of criteria. Indigenous people’s rights were not superior to the rights of other inhabitants. A delicate balance needed to be found.
Regarding data on women’s employment, Ms. ZAPATA said there had been major difficulties in obtaining data because there had been no census for more than a decade. Some 29 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men worked in agriculture. An important percentage of women did not enjoy security of employment. About 27 per cent of women worked at home. Women earned about 80 per cent of what men earned.
On gender equality and equal opportunity, she said Peru had difficulties in agreeing on the best words to use. Peru wanted to ensure that women enjoyed all their individual rights using a number of instruments, rule and norms. All those took into account mainstreaming gender equality. The 2006-2010 plan had specific indicators and included input by civil society. The Government wanted to ensure that all people enjoyed their human rights.
In follow-up questions on the issue of abortion, one expert said it was not just a case of one woman, but touched on the lives on many young women in the country. Some 14 per cent of teenage abortions ended in death. The country had to look for a solution to the problem. It was also a technical question. When Peru had ratified the Optional Protocol, it had agreed to respect certain decisions made at the international level. Peru had had an opportunity to represent its case to the Human Rights Committee. Not respecting that decision could be interpreted as disrespect for international procedures. A solution could have been found, and she urged the Government to look for a long-term solution to the problem.
Another expert asked if the right to therapeutic abortion was only interpreted in both physical and psychological terms.
Responding to follow-up questions, Mr. CHAVEZ said that abortion was an issue of national social debate. He agreed with Ms. Pimentel that there was no simple solution, as the matter reached beyond the Government’s willingness to act. He did not want to create an impression that Peru did not respect the decisions of human rights bodies. Peru yielded to the supervisory mechanisms, but it had practical difficulties in providing effective recourse to the victim. When abortion was the only means of saving the mother’s life or preventing serious damage to her health, it was not penalized. That opened up a margin of interpretation to the doctor. Should there be a risk of psychological damage, psychological help could be provided. What was required was an extension of the field, through legislation.
As the Committee turned to women’s situation in family life, Ms. SAIGA, expert from Japan, noted that, in 1999, the same minimum age of marriage had been determined for both boys and girls, but it still remained at 16. She strongly recommended that the Government revise the marriage age to 18.
Mr. CHAVEZ replied that, from a practical point of view, the existing cultural patterns dictated the facts on the ground. Law was meant to protect the existing reality. People did not wait until they were 18 to start living together. Social aspects of the situation were hard to legislate. The country had, indeed, raised the minimum age of marriage for girls from 14 to 16 in 1999.
Ms. ZAPATA said that in the Amazonia area, people started living together at a very young age. Possible actions to address that situation included education.
* *** *For information media • not an official record