Racism and gender discrimination intertwined in Peru

Alena Johns | Nov 30, 2015

Peru’s indigenous women are as varied as the land they inhabit, yet war and terror that occurred in Peru between 1980 to 2000 has united these women with a common ground. The consequences of conflict have highlighted how they were not just ethnically discriminated against, but also the catastrophic and sometimes lethal forms of gender discrimination they have had to endure since.

Peru has a long history of discrimination against poor and Indigenous communities.  Amongst the atrocities inflicted during the war, indigenous women were hit in particular. Accounts of torture, forced sterilisation and death are still fresh in memory and many of those who suffered are still trying to make sense of what occurred in a country still struggling with deep inequalities.

Forced Sterilisation

In the last five years of the civil war, it is estimated that 200,000 women in Peru, mainly indigenous, were forcibly sterilised by the Fujimori government. It is one of the largest forced sterilisation programmes in recent history. Thousands of women repeat the same story of being tricked or threatened to become sterilised. In many cases, an operation was carried out without the woman’s knowledge shortly after giving birth. The conditions of the operation were on numerous occasions conducted in unsanitary conditions and many women did not receive appropriate after-care. As a result, these women suffered serious health problems.

What is being done to assist survivors?

Unfortunately, many of the women who experienced forced sterilisation are yet to receive any type of reparation from the Peruvian government to compensate the ordeals they had to endure. This is where the help of our partner association DEMUS comes in to play. DEMUS has been campaigning for over 10 years and even after set backs, they refuse to give in. Persistent activists from the organisation are working each day to push the government to investigate the true number of women affected and explore ways in which survivors and their families can be fairly compensated as well as justice to be bought to those responsible.

Take Victoria Vigo, for example. Victoria’s story is incredibly heart-breaking. After suffering a still birth, she was sterilised against her will. At a time when she was her most vulnerable, she was abused by the very people who should have been taking care of her. With the support of DEMUS and after a seven year battle, Victoria was one of the lucky few to receive some compensation, but the struggle continues for thousands of other women.

The struggles continues

Recent economic studies have classified Peru as a middle class country, but in reality, this could not be farther from the truth. In fact, such statistics can appear quite deceiving as they can often stop people seeing the bigger picture. In Peru, economic growth has not erased poverty and it has certainly not reduced the high levels of inequality in the country. For example, studies have revealed that indigenous people in Peru are still less likely to get an education or earn a living wage.

Securing funding is getting harder

The work of organisations such as DEMUS is vital in providing support to women in Peru. But funding is proving more difficult to secure. Today, more than ever it is important to not overlook countries that look promising economically on paper, as they may not have necessarily tackled a lot of the social issues and insecurities that affect women and other vulnerable groups in society.

How you can help

Please help us continue to support the work that DEMUS and other organisations do transforming women’s lives by making a donation today.


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