Peru Ombudswoman’s report on the care for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault concludes government-sponsored women’s emergency centers “not efficient”

By Annie Thériault ~

Every day, at least 108 Peruvian women are victims of physical, sexual or psychological violence. And if not all ask for help, most are met with less-than-adequate attention, reports Peru’s Ombudswoman Beatriz Merino.

The government-funded Emergency Centers for Women, or CEMs, “are not efficient,” states Merino in her latest report – which monitored and evaluated Peru’s 73 CEMs over a one-year period.

According to Merino, Emergency centers’ over-worked and short-handed personnel follow-up on only approximately 40 percent of cases, and social workers and lawyers can juggle anywhere from 30 to 120 cases per month. And, 14 regions – including poverty-stricken Puno, Huamanga, Vilcashuamán and Iquitos – have not a single professional on location to attend victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Merino also reported that 82.4 percent of CEMs are not equipped with a special room designated for minors, and that 70 percent of these emergency centers do not meet minimal standards of accessibility for disabled women.

Despite laws against domestic violence, many women in Peru continue to be failed by the legal system. The enforcement of domestic violence laws remains a major concern, as police officers often fail to respond or are hostile to women who report physical, sexual or psychological violence.

Peru’s Ombudsman Office’s has frequently reported cases of women being refused the right to make a complaint at a police station, medical assistance from forensic doctors, or medical certificates in cases of domestic violence.

According to Human Rights Watch, medical examiners frequently underreport injuries sustained through domestic violence. In 1996, Verónica Alvarez, a 36-year-old mother in Lima, Peru, was hit in the face with a metal typewriter by her partner and was left permanently scarred. Because the medical examiner classified her injuries as needing fewer than 10 days of treatment and recuperation, Verónica’s case was classified as a misdemeanor – usually equivalent to a couple of weeks of community service.

And, according to the Lima-based Manuela Ramos Movement, or MMR, Peru’s justice system also fails to make adequate use of protection measures. From 1996-1997, prosecutors issued protective measures in only one out of 45 domestic violence cases filed.

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