Women in Peru

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Women in Peru
Andean woman in village between Cuzco and Puno Peru.jpg
Andean woman in village between Cuzco and Puno, Peru
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.387 (2012)
Rank 73rd
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 67 (2010)
Women in parliament 21.5% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 47.3% (2010)
Women in labour force 67.8% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6787 (2013)
Rank 80th out of 136

Women in Peru represent a minority in both numbers and legal rights. Although historically somewhat equal to men, after the Spanish conquest the culture in what is now Peru became increasingly patriarchal. The patriarchal culture is still noticeable. Women receive less pay than men, have fewer employment and political opportunities, and are at times abused without repercussion. Contraceptive availability is not enough for the demand, and over a third of pregnancies end in abortion. Maternal death rates are also some of the highest in South America.

The Peruvian Government has begun efforts to combat the high maternal mortality rate and lack of female political representation, as well as violence against women. However, the efforts have not yet borne fruit.


Andean civilization is traditionally somewhat egalitarian for men and women, with women allowed to inherit property from their mothers. After the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire, the culture became more patriarchal; and the resulting society has been described as being machista.[2][3]

In Peru non-Chinese women married the mostly male Chinese coolies during the first Chinese migration to Peru.[4] There were almost no women among the nearly entirely male Chinese coolie population that migrated to Peru and Cuba.[5][6] Peruvian women were married to these Chinese male migrants.[7][8][9][10][11] African women particularly had mostly no intercourse with Chinese men during their labor as coolies, while Chinese had contact with Peruvian women in cities, there they formed relationships and sired mixed babies, these women originated from Andean and coastal areas and did not originally come from the cities, in the haciendas on the coast in rural areas, native young women of indígenas (native) and serranas (mountain) origin from the Andes mountains would come down to work, these Andean native women were favored as marital partners by Chinese men over Africans, with matchmakers arranging for communal marriages of Chinese men to indígenas and serranas young women.[12] There was a racist reaction by Peruvians to the marriages of Peruvian women and Chinese men.[13] When native Peruvian women (cholas et natives, Indias, indígenas) and Chinese men had mixed children, the children were called injerto and once these injertos emerged, Chinese men then sought out girls of injertas origins as marriage partners, children born to black mothers were not called injertos.[14] Low class Peurvians established sexual unions or marriages with the Chinese men and some black and Indian women "bred" with the Chinese according to Alfredo Sachettí, who claimed the mixing was causing the Chinese to suffer from "progressive degeneration", in Casa Grande highland Indian women and Chinese men participated in communal "mass marriages" with each other, arranged when highland women were brought by a Chinese matchmaker after receiving a down payment.[15][16] Around the La Concepción market in Lima native Peruvian women cohabited with Chinese male businessmen and artisans.[17] Alot of Peruvian women married Chinese men and raised families with them due to the low number of Chinese women in Peru, one Peruvian woman named Maria Salas married a Chinese man named Manuel Cheon because she viewed Chinese men as more caring since her mother Juana Aldecoa Arrospide de Salas was beaten by her spouse who was Peruvian, and she turned out to be right.[18] There was a disparity between the mixed and the all Chinese couples, in one year a census counted that Chinese men sired 268 children with Peruvian women while all Chinese families sired 79 children.[19] Ecuadorian and Peruvian Chinese families settled in Hong Kong and Macau, in the beginning of the 20th century Peruvian women and their Chinese children who lived in China were allowed to repatriate from China to Peru but Ecuadorian origin families received no help from their government.[20]

In Peru and Cuba some Indian (Native American), mulatto, black, and white women engaged in carnal relations or marriages with Chinese men, with marriages of mulatto, black, and white woman being reported by the Cuba Commission Report and in Peru it was reported by the New York Times that Peruvian black and Indian (Native) women married Chinese men to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of the men since they dominated and "subjugated" the Chinese men despite the fact that the labor contract was annulled by the marriage, reversing the roles in marriage with the Peruvian woman holding marital power, ruling the family and making the Chinese men slavish, docile, "servile", "submissive" and "feminine" and commanding them around, reporting that "Now and then...he [the Chinese man] becomes enamored of the charms of some sombre-hued chola (Native Indian and mestiza woman) or samba (mixed black woman), and is converted and joins the Church, so that may enter the bonds of wedlock with the dusky señorita."[21] Chinese men were sought out as husbands and considered a "catch" by the "dusky damsels" (Peruvian women) because they were viewed as a "model husband, hard-working, affectionate, faithful and obedient" and "handy to have in the house", the Peruvian women became the "better half" instead of the "weaker vessel" and would command their Chinese husbands "around in fine style" instead of treating them equally, while the labor contract of the Chinese coolie would be nullified by the marriage, the Peruvian wife viewed the nullification merely as the previous "master" handing over authority over the Chinese man to her as she became his "mistress", keeping him in "servitude" to her, speedily ending any complaints and suppositions by the Chinese men that they would have any power in the marriage.[22]

During the internal conflict in Peru beginning in the 1980s, some families became matriarchal, with approximately 78 percent of migrant families being headed by women. In shantytowns, women established soup kitchens (comedores) and worked together to ensure that their families received enough food to eat.[2][23]

The abuses during the conflict have caused both mental and physical problems in women. Identification papers, necessary for the execution of civil rights like voting, were also destroyed en masse. As of 2007, approximately 18.1 percent of Peruvian women are living without the necessary documents, as opposed to 12.2 percent of men.[24] Even today, women from indigenous tribes may be treated disrespectfully by authority figures. The same applies to poor women.[25]

Forced sterilization[edit]

Forced sterilization against indigenous and poor women has been practiced on a large scale in Peru. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, published in 2003, notes that during the internal conflict in Peru, there were numerous cases of women being forcibly sterilized - also, another estimated up to 300,000 mostly rural women were sterilised under deception or with insufficient consent in the 1990s as part of a campaign intended to combat poverty.[26]

President Alberto Fujimori (in office from 1990–2000) has been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity as a result of a sterilization program put in place by his administration. During his presidency, Fujimori conducted a program of forced sterilizations against indigenous Quechua and the Aymara women, under the guise of a "public health plan".[27][28]


School girls in Peru

Female literacy is lower than male literacy in Peru: only 84.6% of females (15 and older) are literate, compared to 94.9% of males, according to 2007 estimates.[29]

Indigenous women of Peru travel less than men. As such, they tend to be less fluent in Spanish, the national language of Peru. This may lead to difficulties when they must speak with outsiders, who often do not speak the indigenous language.[25] Although women have a higher illiteracy rate than men, an increasing number of women are receiving higher education.[2]


Women are a slight minority in Peru; in 2010 they represented 49.9 percent of the population. Women have a life expectancy of 74 years at birth, five years more than men.[30]

Latest estimates suggest that the population of Peru is Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%.[31] More than 8 out of 10 people are Catholics.[32]

Although Peru has an ethnically diverse population, discrimination by ethnic lines is common, particularly against amerindians and blacks; gender often interacts with ethnic origin; this may mean that "an indigenous woman may only ever work as a maid".[33]

Maternal and reproductive health[edit]

Quechua woman and child in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Women who live in poverty are less likely to give birth in a health center or be attended by a health care worker.[34] Peru has one of the highest maternal death rates in South America, with the government noting 185 deaths per 100,000 live births, and the United Nations estimating the number at 240 per 100,000 live births. In order to combat those high figures, the government released a strategic plan in 2008 to reduce the total to 120 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.[35]

Of these maternal deaths, 46 percent occur during the first six weeks after birth.[36] Amnesty International notes that economic discrimination is one of the factors, with women in affluent areas receiving better health care than those in rural areas. Gender and ethnic discrimination in health care also exist.[37]

Hemorraging (dark blue) is the leading cause of maternal death in Peru

According to the 2007 census, the causes of maternal death in Peru were as follows:[36]

  Hemorrhage 40.5%
  Other 23.8%
  Pre-eclampsia 18.9%
  Abortion-related 6.1%
  Infection 6.1%
  Unknown 1.8%
  Obstructed birth 0.9%

The age of consent in Peru has changed several times during recent years, and has been subject to political debates,[38][39] but today it is fixed at 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation, in accordance with a 2012 decision of the Constitutional Court of Peru.[40] Teenage pregnancies are not uncommon. They are often the result of rape by a male relative.[41]

When giving birth, indigenous mothers may avoid going to clinics due to unfamiliarity with the techniques used. They instead prefer to use traditional practices, with which they are comfortable. [25]The lack of health staff able to speak indigenous languages is also a problem.[42]

Although contraceptives are used in Peru, they are more common in urban areas. An estimated 13.3 percent of women in rural areas are in need of contraceptives that are unavailable, as opposed to 8.7 percent of urban women.[43] Although therapeutic abortion is legal,[44] and an estimated 35 percent of pregnancies result in abortion,[41] regulation and implementation has been controversial, with the only clear guidelines (in Arequipa) withdrawn under pressure from anti-abortion groups. There have been instances where mothers have been forced to carry babies to term at large personal risk.[44]

The HIV/AIDS rate in Peru was estimated in 2012 at 0.4% of adults aged 15-49.[45]

Family life[edit]

Girl with her alpaca near the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru

By law, Peruvian women must be 16 years old to marry;[30] prior to 1999, it was 14. A 2004 survey by the United Nations estimates that 13 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 19 have been married. In marriage, the husband and wife share responsibility for household affairs. In approximately 25% of marriages, finances are handled by the husbands;[30] in some other families the mother is the head of the household.[3] Some ethnic groups, such as the Asháninka, practice polygamy.[2]

Despite the fact that married Peruvian men occasionally openly take lovers, divorce is difficult to obtain, although not uncommon.[2] In a divorce, custody of children under the age of seven is generally awarded to the mother. Custody of those over seven is generally awarded by gender. If a parent is deemed unfit, the children can be sent to live with the other parent.[46]

Domestic violence[edit]

Further information: Domestic violence in Peru

The OECD notes that women in Peru are subject to abuse, with almost half suffering from violence. The most common form of abuse is psychological. There are also reports of female genital mutilation as a rite of passage during puberty.[46] The government has attempted to address the issues, establishing the National Programme against Family Violence and Abuse in 2001, and passing a law requiring local authorities to deal with domestic abuse and stipulating punishments for rape and spousal rape.[30] Legal action against perpetrators of abuse is slow and ineffectual.[41] In 1999 Peru repealed the law which stated that a rapist would be exonerated, if after the assault he and his victim married.[47]

The principal law dealing with domestic violence is Ley de Protección frente a la Violencia Familiar (Law for Protection from Family Violence). [48] It was first enacted in 1993, has been strengthened in 1997, and thereafter modified several times, in order to broaden its scope: by 2010, this law had already been amended five times.[49]


The majority of rural women work in farming,[2] or take care of household chores.[3] On average, they earn 46 percent less than male workers.[50]

Beginning in the 1990s, women increasingly entered service industries to replace men. They were hired because the employers could pay them less and believed that they would not form unions. During that period, labour rights were revoked for women workers.[51]

In 2014, the UN noted that despite the fact that the economy of country was improving, women continued to be discriminated and to suffer violence.[52]

Gender equality[edit]

A woman in Lima, Peru

Discrimination based on gender is forbidden by the government of Peru, and a piece of legislation was passed in 2000 that outlawed discrimination. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted that discrimination is practiced, in particular with regard to women's land rights, and that women in Peru generally have higher levels of poverty and unemployment. Those who have jobs have difficulty holding senior positions. The OECD has rated the degree of gender discrimination in Peru as low on the Social Institutions and Gender Index.[30]

Informal land-dispute resolution systems are common, and rural women are often discriminated.[53] Women's access to land is not well protected; in 2002, only 25 percent of land titles were given to women, and under an "informal ownership" system the husband may sell property without his wife's consent.[46] In 2014, new laws have improved the access of indigenous people to land. [54]

Politically, women in Peru have been subordinated to men and had little power. Twenty percent of those elected in 2001 were women. Female politicians are often from richer families, as women from a lower income bracket must deal with housework.[55] Recent laws have required a quota of representatives in Congress to be women. Despite this, the levels of women's political representation remain below the 30% quota target.[56] As of 2014, there were 22.3% women in parliament.[57]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Barrett 2002, p. 83.
  3. ^ a b c Crabtree 2002, p. 11.
  4. ^ Teresa A. Meade (2011). A History of Modern Latin America: 1800 to the Present. Volume 4 of Wiley Blackwell Concise History of the Modern World (illustrated ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 1444358111. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 143. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ Adam McKeown (2001). Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, and Hawaii 1900-1936 (illustrated ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 47. ISBN 0226560252. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  7. ^ Robert G. Lee (1999). Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture. Temple University Press. p. 75. ISBN 1439905711. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ Chee-Beng Tan (2004). Chinese Overseas: Comparative Cultural Issues (illustrated ed.). Hong Kong University Press. p. 47. ISBN 9622096611. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  9. ^ Josephine D. Lee; Imogene L. Lim; Yuko Matsukawa (2002). Re/collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Cultural History. Temple University Press. p. 181. ISBN 1439901201. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  10. ^ Walton Look Lai (1998). The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History. Walton Look Lai (illustrated ed.). Press, University of the West Indies. p. 8. ISBN 9766400210. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  11. ^ Michael J. Gonzales (2014). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875–1933. University of Texas Press. ISBN 1477306021. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  12. ^ Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 144. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  13. ^ Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 145. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  14. ^ Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (2010). Walton Look Lai; Chee Beng Tan, eds. The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brill ebook titles. BRILL. p. 146. ISBN 9004182136. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  15. ^ Michael J. Gonzales (2014). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875–1933. University of Texas Press. ISBN 1477306021. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  16. ^ Michael J. Gonzales (1985). Plantation Agriculture and Social Control in Northern Peru, 1875-1933. Brill ebook titles. Volume 62 of Texas Pan American Series (Issue 62 of Latin American Monographs, No 62, Issue 62 of Institute of Latin American Studies). University of Texas Press. p. 100. ISBN 029276491X. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  17. ^ Bernard P. Wong; Chee-Beng Tan, eds. (2013). Chinatowns around the World: Gilded Ghetto, Ethnopolis, and Cultural Diaspora. BRILL. p. 120. ISBN 9004255907. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  18. ^ Josephine D. Lee; Imogene L. Lim; Yuko Matsukawa (2002). Re/collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Cultural History. Temple University Press. p. 181-182. ISBN 1439901201. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  19. ^ João Frederico Normano; Antonello Gerbi; Latin American Economic Institute (1943). The Japanese in South America: An Introductory Survey with Special Reference to Peru. International Research Series, Institute of Pacific Relations Series. Latin American Economic Institute (reprint ed.). AMS Press. p. 84. ISBN 0404595502. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  20. ^ Julia María Schiavone Camacho (2012). Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960 (illustrated ed.). Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 132. ISBN 0807835404. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  21. ^ Elliott Young (2014). Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era Through World War II. The David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History. Volume 4 of Wiley Blackwell Concise History of the Modern World (illustrated ed.). UNC Press Books. p. 82. ISBN 1469612968. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  22. ^ From an Occasional Correspondent (June 28, 1873). "THE COOLIE TRADE.; THE SLAVERY OF THE PRESENT. THE TRAFFIC OF PERU HIRING OF THE COO- LIE HORRORS OF THE MIDDLE PASSAGE THE COOLIE'S FATE.". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 1, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  23. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 46.
  24. ^ Amnesty International 2009, pp. 26-27.
  25. ^ a b c Amnesty International 2009, p. 22.
  26. ^ "Peru Forcibly Sterilized 300,000 Poor Women in the '90s. Now They Could Decide the Country's Future.". The New Republic. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  27. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2148793.stm
  28. ^ http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2004/05/BARTHELEMY/11190
  29. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2103.html
  30. ^ a b c d e OECD 2010, p. 128.
  31. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pe.html
  32. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pe.html
  33. ^ http://www.bbc.com/news/10205171
  34. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 25.
  35. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 11.
  36. ^ a b Amnesty International 2009, p. 20.
  37. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 12.
  38. ^ Lindsay Goldwert (2007-06-22). "Peru Lowers Age Of Consent To 14". CBS NEWS. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  39. ^ "Pleno Reconsidero Exoneracion de Sedunda Votacion a Proyecto Sobre Libertad Sexual" [House Reconsidered and Excluded Second Vote for Project on Sexual Freedom] (in Spanish). El Heraldo. 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  40. ^ "Demanda de inconstitucionalidad interpuesta por diez mil seiscientos nueve ciudadanos contra el artículo 1° de la Ley N° 28704 que modifica el artículo 173°, inciso 3° del Código Penal, sobre delito de violación sexual contra víctima entre 14 y 18 años de edad" (PDF) (in Spanish). 2013-01-07. 
  41. ^ a b c Crabtree 2002, p. 67.
  42. ^ http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/campaigns/demand-dignity/maternal-health-is-a-human-right/maternal-mortality-in-peru
  43. ^ Amnesty International 2009, p. 40.
  44. ^ a b Amnesty International 2009, p. 41.
  45. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2155rank.html
  46. ^ a b c OECD 2010, p. 129.
  47. ^ Warrick, Catherine. (2009). Law in the service of legitimacy: Gender and politics in Jordan. Farnham, Surrey, England; Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Pub. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-7546-7587-7. 
  48. ^ http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/domesticviolence/peru.dv.97.pdf
  49. ^ http://www.justice.gov/eoir/vll/country/canada_coi/peru/PER103441.FE.pdf
  50. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 10.
  51. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 44.
  52. ^ http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/UN-Concerned-Over-Violence-Against-Women-in-Peru-20140920-0008.html
  53. ^ http://usaidlandtenure.net/sites/default/files/country-profiles/full-reports/USAID_Land_Tenure_Peru_Profile.pdf
  54. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/sep/12/peru-land-rights-indigenous-communities
  55. ^ Crabtree 2002, p. 33.
  56. ^ http://www.idea.int/americas/peru/lima_workshop.cfm
  57. ^ http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm