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women in Peru. Photo: Reuters
Women in Peru. Photo: Reuters

In Peru, femicide is another pandemic on the rise amid COVID-19

At least 1,200 women and girls have been reported missing since coronavirus entered the country in early March.

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In addition to combating the coronavirus, Peru has endured a tragic increase in the number of missing women and girls. 

Pre-COVID-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every day, but since quarantine, that number has grown to eight a day. Domestic violence reports have increased around the world during quarantine, prompting the United Nations to call for urgent government action. 

According to authorities, including Peru’s women’s ministry, at least 1,200 women and girls have been reported missing since the start of the pandemic. 

“The figures are really quite alarming. We know the numbers of women and girls who have disappeared, but we don’t have detailed information about how many have been found,” women’s rights official, Isabel Ortiz, told Reuters

The United Nations reports that Latin America has the world’s highest rates of femicide, which is defined as the gender-motivated killing of women. It is estimated that almost 20 million women and girls each year are sexually or physically abused in the region.

The prevalence of femicide and domestic violence is so high because it’s driven by a macho culture and social norms that dictate women’s roles, according to Ortiz. 

“Violence against women exists because of the many patriarchal patterns that exist in our society. There are many stereotypes about the role of women that set how their behavior should be, and when these are not adhered to, violence is used against women,” she explained. 

Before the pandemic hit, thousands of women throughout the continent were staging massive protests demanding action be taken against gender-based violence. But the virus has put a stop to these demonstrations, and lockdown has put Peruvian women and girls in more vulnerable situations. 

Women’s rights experts believe that some of the missing women could be victims of human trafficking or killed by their current or former partners. 

Katherine Soto, leader of Missing Women Peru, says that before a woman or a girl goes missing, there is typically a history of violence at home.  

“Some girls who have gone missing have been kidnapped by their partners inside their own homes and are prohibited from communicating with their families,” Soto said. 

Walter Martos, Peru’s new cabinet chief, announced this week that measures to address this type of violence will be taken, including a national register to keep track of missing people. 

More support will also be given to the government’s missing persons hotline to process cases. 

“Such actions will make it possible to mobilize the police at the national level to locate women as well as provide the necessary support to family members,” Martos said. 

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