Peru is a constitutional, multiparty republic. President Martin Vizcarra assumed the presidency in 2018 following the resignation of then president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, under whom Vizcarra was vice president, on corruption allegations. Kuczynski had won the 2016 national elections in a vote widely considered free and fair. Using a provision of the constitution, President Vizcarra dissolved Congress in September 2019 and called for new legislative elections. Free and fair legislative elections took place on January 26 to complete the 2016-21 legislative term, as mandated by the constitution. On November 9, Congress impeached President Vizcarra for alleged corruption, under the “permanent moral incapacity” clause of the constitution. President of Congress Manuel Merino assumed the presidency on November 10 due to the lack of vice presidents but resigned on November 15 following a week of widespread protests. Congress then elected Francisco Sagasti as its new president on November 16, and he consequently became president of the republic.
The Peruvian National Police, who report to the Ministry of Interior, maintain internal security. The armed forces, reporting to the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities in exceptional circumstances, such as the COVID-19 national state of emergency declared in March, and in designated emergency areas. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces were accused of committing abuses during protests this year, particularly during November 10-15 protests following the impeachment of former president Vizcarra.
Significant human rights issues included: arbitrary detentions (including of minors); serious government corruption at all levels, including in the judiciary; and sex and labor trafficking.
The government took steps to investigate and in some cases prosecute or otherwise punish public officials accused of abuses, including high-level officials. Nonetheless, corruption and perception of impunity remained prevalent and were a major concern in public opinion. President Sagasti publicly committed to support the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for abuses during the November 10-15 protests. The Public Ministry, which is the autonomous public prosecutor’s office, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights are also assessing the events of November 10-15.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape. Penalties are a minimum of 14 years and a maximum of life in prison. Enforcement was inadequate.
The law defines femicide as the crime of killing of a woman or girl based on expectations, assumptions, or factors distinctive to her gender. The minimum sentence for femicide is 20 years, and 30 years when the crime includes aggravating circumstances (e.g., crimes against minor, elderly, or pregnant victims). Enforcement of the law was slow, and prosecution of cases was often ineffective.
The law prohibits domestic violence; penalties range from one month to six years in prison. The law authorizes judges and prosecutors to prevent a convicted spouse or parent from returning to the family home. The law also authorizes the victim’s relatives and unrelated persons living in the home to file complaints of domestic violence. The law requires a police investigation of domestic violence to take place within five days of a complaint and obliges authorities to extend protection to female victims of domestic violence. Enforcement of the law was lax.
Violence against women and girls, and sexual, physical, and psychological abuse were serious, underreported national problems. A government health survey from 2019 released in June stated 57 percent of women ages 15 to 49 had suffered physical, psychological, or sexual violence in the previous 12 months. COVID-19 quarantine laws posed increased challenges, since a substantial proportion of violence against women took place in the home. Between March and July, the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations reported more than 36,000 cases of violence against women, including 36 femicides, 32 attempted femicides, and 800 cases of sexual abuse. As of August more than 1,200 women and girls were reported as “missing” during the COVID-19 quarantine, placing them at high risk of human trafficking or other forms of violence and exploitation.
The Ministry of Women operated service centers for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and their accompanying children. These centers provided short-term shelter as well as legal, psychological, and social services. NGO representatives expressed concerns about the quality and quantity of the program’s services, particularly in rural areas. The ministry operated a toll-free hotline and implemented projects to sensitize government employees and the citizenry to domestic violence. The Public Ministry operated emergency spaces that women and children could use for short-term accommodation, and the government made efforts to expand temporary shelters, but NGO representatives and members of Congress stated there were not enough.
The Ministry of Women’s mobile emergency teams, composed of social workers and mental health professionals, aided women in highly vulnerable situations during the strict quarantine period from March 16 to May 31. The ministry reported attending to victims of rape (more than half of whom were minors) in that period, while acknowledging a shortage of rape kits. During the first week of quarantine in March alone, the ministry received 2,436 complaints through its hotline, responded to one femicide, and coordinated with police to intervene in 207 conflicts.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a serious problem. The law defines sexual harassment as comments, touching, or actions of a sexual nature that are unsolicited and unwanted by victim. Sexual harassment is a crime with a penalty of up to eight years in prison. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also a labor rights violation subject to administrative penalties. Government enforcement of the law was minimal.
In February courts confirmed the 2019 sentence of a man for sexual harassment and imposed a sentence of four years and eight months in prison. This was the first ever conviction for sexual harassment of an adult victim.
Reproductive Rights: By law couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The law prohibits abortion, except to save the life of or prevent serious illness to the mother.
The civil society organization PromSex reported that women in rural areas, especially Quechua-speaking women, were mistrustful of health-care providers, who sometimes imposed fines on indigenous women who gave birth at home. Health-care providers reportedly threatened to withhold birth certificates. Indigenous women and those living in rural areas experienced “verbal aggressions, mistreatment, the imposition of institutionalized and horizontal childbirth, and ignorance of their language and customs,” when seeking reproductive health services. Other factors, such as lack of sexual education, location of health centers, religious and social reasons, and economic hardships also contributed to the mistrust of the state health-care system.
Early motherhood continued to be a risk to adolescent health. According to the 2019 Demographic and Family Health Survey of the National Institute for Statistics and Informatics, 12.6 percent of female adolescents ages 15-19 had been pregnant at least once, and of those 9.3 percent were already mothers while 3.3 percent were pregnant for the first time. The World Health Organization (WHO) 2019 Trends in Maternal Mortality Study reported 92 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. According to the WHO, between 2010-2019, 66 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied by modern methods.
Provincial prosecutorial offices are required by law to incorporate victims of sexual violence into the national Victims and Witness Assistance Program, or to request the required protection measures from the court; however, one NGO reported 15 percent of criminal prosecutors did not make these requests. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations coordinated provision of shelters for female victims of sexual assault, sexual violence, and human trafficking, and offered free legal, psychological, and social services and assistance; however, NGOs reported shelters were often not equipped to provide specialized psychological services. There were 446 Emergency Centers for Women in the country.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: The law provides for equality between men and women. It prohibits gender-based discrimination between partners regarding marriage, divorce, pregnancy, pay, and property rights. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Arbitrary dismissal of pregnant women and workplace discrimination against women were common. The law stipulates that women should receive equal pay for equal work, but women often were paid less than men.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived either by birth within the country’s territory or from either of the parents. The state grants a national identification card and number upon birth, which are essential to access most public and many private services. Rural Amazonian areas had the lowest coverage of national identification cards. Government and NGO representatives assessed that undocumented individuals were particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation, human trafficking, and other crimes.
Child Abuse: The law requires all government authorities, courts, and social service institutions to use the “best interests of the child” standard in decisions affecting abused children. The law imposes between six years and lifetime prison sentences for crimes listed as “child abuse,” including sexual exploitation of children, abusing minors, and child trafficking, but these crimes were sometimes confused with each other. Police did not always collect the evidence to meet the prosecutor’s evidentiary burden, and judges regularly applied a higher evidentiary threshold than required, resulting in courts applying lesser, easier-to-prove charges, particularly in trafficking cases.
Violence against children, including sexual abuse, was a serious nationwide problem. At-risk children may be placed with guardians or in specialized residential facilities for different kinds of victims. Not all shelters provided psychological care, although the law requires it. In most regions residential shelters operated by provincial or district authorities were supplemented by shelters operated by schools, churches, and NGOs. The Ministry of Women opened four specialized shelters between January and February for female child trafficking victims that provided psychosocial, medical, and legal support.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law allows a civil judge to authorize minors older than 16 to marry. According to the 2017 census, there were 55,000 married teenagers, 80 percent of them girls.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography and stipulates a penalty of six to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law prohibits child sex trafficking, with a minimum penalty of eight to 15 years in prison if the victim is age 18 or older, 12 to 20 years in prison if the victim is 14 to 17, and 25 to 35 years if the victim is 13 or younger. Government officials and NGOs identified numerous cases of child sex-trafficking during the year, although officials continued to classify many child sex-trafficking crimes as sexual exploitation, which provides fewer protections to victims. While the COVID-19 pandemic brought tourism in general to a halt, the country remained a destination for child sex tourism, and NGO representatives reported an increase in online sexual exploitation during the pandemic.
Although the country has strong laws to protect children, it frequently had serious problems with enforcement. Media reported on the sex and labor trafficking of minor girls and women in the illicit gold-mining sites of the remote Amazonian Madre de Dios region. Law enforcement operations against illegal mining sites were not effective in identifying victims and removing them from exploitation.
The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. A conviction for rape of a child younger than 14 by an adult carries life imprisonment. The law also prohibits adults from using deceit, abuse of power, or taking advantage of a child in a vulnerable situation to have sex with a person younger than 18.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
Estimates of the Jewish population ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 persons. Jewish community leaders said some individuals engaged occasionally in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on social media. The government and both private and government-run media generally did not engage in this activity.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, defined as individuals with a physical, sensory, or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. The law establishes infractions and punishments for noncompliance. It provides for the protection, care, rehabilitation, security, and social inclusion of persons with disabilities, and mandates that public spaces and government internet sites to be accessible to them. It requires the inclusion of sign language or subtitles in all educational and cultural programs on public television and in media available in public libraries. The government generally did not effectively enforce the law.
The law requires companies to have job selection processes that give persons with disabilities the opportunity to apply for jobs on equal terms with persons without disabilities. The law also requires employers to provide employees up to 56 hours of leave per year to accompany their relatives with disabilities to medical appointments.
The government failed to enforce laws protecting the rights of persons with mental disabilities. NGO representatives and government officials reported an insufficient number of medical personnel providing services in psychiatric institutions.
Persons with disabilities faced immense challenges due to inaccessible infrastructure, minimal access to education, insufficient employment opportunities, and discrimination, according to government and civil society leaders. The Ombudsman’s Office reported approximately 87 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school and 76 percent of persons with disabilities did not work. One government survey reported that 70 percent of employers stated they would not hire a person with a disability.
Indigenous persons remained politically, economically, and socially disadvantaged. They faced threats from land grabbers, narcotics traffickers, illegal miners, illegal loggers, and extractive industries that operated near or within indigenous land holdings, often in the Amazon. Indigenous persons were particularly at risk for both sex and labor trafficking. Many indigenous persons who lived in rural communities had limited access to justice, protection, or abuse prevention activities. Indigenous leaders expressed concerns that the national and regional governments did not adequately protect indigenous peoples and their property interests. In April an indigenous Kakataibo leader was killed in Puerto Inca, Huanuco, allegedly by criminals illegally selling land. In August, three indigenous Kukama citizens died after a clash with police while protesting oil extraction operations in Bretana, Loreto.
While the constitution recognizes that indigenous peoples have the right to own land communally, indigenous groups often lacked legal title to demarcate the boundaries of their land. Amazonian indigenous peoples continued to accuse the national government of delaying the issuance of land titles. By law indigenous communities retain the right of unassignability, which should prevent the title to indigenous lands from being reassigned to a nonindigenous person. Some indigenous community members, however, sold land to outsiders without the majority consent of their community.
The national government retains subsurface mineral rights for land nationwide. This led to disputes between local indigenous communities, the national government, regional governments, and various extractive industry interests. The law requires the government to consult with indigenous communities on proposed extractive projects or on changes to current extractive projects. The law also requires the government to produce a detailed implementation plan to facilitate government and private-sector compliance; implementation of this law was somewhat effective.
The law requires the Ministry of Culture to establish a database of indigenous communities entitled to consultation. As of August the ministry recognized 55 indigenous peoples as entitled to “prior consultation” and confirmed the existence of another 14 indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation, with very limited or no contact with the rest of the country. From 2014 to 2019, the government initiated 24 prior consultations with various indigenous communities, which generated 487 agreements. Of those 24 prior consultations, 10 had concluded and 14 continued.
NGOs, legal experts, and the Ombudsman’s Office expressed concern that indigenous communities did not have sufficient training to engage fairly in consultations with the government and extractive industries.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Discrimination, harassment, and abuse of transgender women and girls, including by police and other authorities, was a problem. During the COVID-19 national state of emergency, there was evidence of mistreatment of transgender citizens by police, particularly during a two-week period in which an emergency decree mandated that men and women were only allowed on the streets on alternate days. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and largely lacked access to comprehensive protective services.
The constitution prohibits discrimination, and individuals can file legal claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Few national laws mention sexual orientation and gender identity as explicit categories for protection from discrimination, which left room for interpretations that overlook rights for LGBTI persons. Some regions and municipalities, including Piura, La Libertad, Loreto, and San Martin, have regulations that explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons and provide administrative relief but not criminal sanctions.
The law does not provide transgender persons the right to update their national identity documents to reflect their gender identity. Transgender persons, therefore, often did not have valid national identification cards. This limited their access to government services. In August courts ordered the National Identity and Civil Status Registry to allow citizens to change their gender, name, and picture to reflect their current identity. As of November the case was under appeal by the government.
Government officials, NGO representatives, journalists, and civil-society leaders reported official and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons in employment, housing, education, law enforcement, and health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. NGO representatives reported that law enforcement authorities repeatedly failed to protect, and on occasion violated, the rights of LGBTI citizens.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV and AIDS faced discrimination and harassment, including societal discrimination, with respect to employment, housing, and social inclusion. The Ministry of Health implemented policies to combat discrimination based on HIV and AIDS status. HIV and AIDS affected transgender women and girls disproportionately, and many transgender women could not obtain health care because they lacked national identification cards reflecting their gender and appearance.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
In June the Ombudsman’s Office reported 140 active social conflicts and 50 latent ones. Social conflicts around extractive industries and socioenvironmental issues were 67 percent of the total number of social conflicts. Half of all social conflicts related to mining. As of August, 119 conflicts escalated to violence, resulting in a total of six deaths. In August media denounced physical abuses by police against citizens protesting mining operations in Espinar, Cusco. As of August the case remained under investigation.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
With certain limitations, labor laws and regulations provide for freedom of association, the right to strike, and collective bargaining. The law prohibits intimidation by employers and other forms of antiunion discrimination. It requires reinstatement or compensation of workers fired for union activity. The law allows workers to form unions without seeking prior authorization. By law at least 20 workers must be affiliated to form an enterprise-level union and 50 workers must be affiliated to form a sector-wide union or federation. Some labor activists viewed this requirement as prohibitively high, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, which represented 96.5 percent of all businesses.
Long-term employment under short-term contract schemes was widespread, including in the public sector. The use of unlimited consecutive short-term contracts made the exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining difficult.
Private-sector labor law sets out nine categories of short-term employment contracts that companies may use. The law sets time limits on contracts in each category and has a five-year overall limit on the consecutive use of short-term contracts. A sector-specific law covering parts of the textile and apparel sectors exempts employers from this five-year limit and allows employers to hire workers indefinitely on short-term contracts. The law provides for hiring, compensation, and paid-leave benefits for agricultural workers until 2031, including consecutive short-term contracts.
In August a leader of a street-cleaning union denounced physical aggression by unidentified persons who threatened her, allegedly due to her public demands for better labor conditions. As of August the case remained under investigation.
The law allows unions to declare a strike in accordance with their governing documents, with prior notice of five days for the private sector, 10 days for the public sector, and 15 days for emergency services. Essential services must also receive the approval of the Ministry of Labor to strike and provide a sufficient number of workers during a strike to maintain operations. Neither private-sector nor public-sector institutions may legally dismiss workers who strike.
The government did not effectively enforce the law on freedom of association, collective bargaining, or other labor laws. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.
Penalties for violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining were insufficient to deter violations and, according to labor experts and union representatives, were rarely enforced. Workers faced prolonged judicial processes and lack of enforcement following dismissals for trade union activity.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not always enforce it effectively. The law prescribes penalties of eight to 15 years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking and six to 12 years’ imprisonment for a separate crime of forced labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping. Forced labor crimes continued to occur in domestic service, agriculture, forestry, mining and related services, factories, counterfeit operations, brick making, and organized street begging. Illegal logging, which had a devastating impact on the landscape and the environment, affected many indigenous communities who found themselves trapped in forced labor. The narcoterrorist organization Shining Path used force and coercion to recruit children to serve as combatants or guards. Shining Path also used force and coercion to subject children and adults to forced labor in agriculture, cultivating or transporting illicit narcotics, and domestic servitude, as well as to carry out terrorist activities.
Officials from the National Labor Inspectorate participated in joint operations with police that led to the identification of victims of forced labor. The government also continued to implement the National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons 2017-21.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The legal minimum age for employment varies from 12 to 18 depending on the type of job, the job conditions, and the hours per day. Employment must not affect school attendance. A permit from the Labor Ministry is required for persons younger than 18 to work legally. Parents must apply for the permit, and employers must have a permit on file to hire a minor. In September Congress approved legislation that forbids children younger than 18 to be domestic workers.
The Ministry of Labor and the National Labor Inspectorate are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but enforcement was not effective, especially in the informal sector where most child labor occurred. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes.
A government report found the prevalence of child labor was 22 percent in 2018; however, 59 percent of households in extreme poverty had a child laborer. In addition there were four times more child laborers in rural areas than in urban areas. Among the population of working children, 57 percent worked in agriculture and 21 percent worked in small-scale or street retail.
Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, social origin, disability, age, language, or social status. The law does not specifically identify discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases. The law establishes the following employment quotas for persons with disabilities: 3 percent for private businesses with more than 50 employees and 5 percent for public-sector organizations. The law prohibits discrimination against domestic workers and prohibits any requirement by employers for their domestic workers to wear uniforms in public places. The National Council for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities oversees compliance with employment quotas for persons with disabilities. Compliance with quotas varied and enforcement was not always effective.
The government did not effectively enforce the law on discrimination. Penalties were not commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. NGO representatives and labor rights advocates noted that discrimination cases often went unreported.
A report by the Ombudsman’s Office found that in 2017, 28 percent of working-age women were not performing paid labor, compared with 10 percent of working-age men.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law provides for a national minimum wage, which was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. The government did not effectively enforce wage laws, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.
The law provides for a 48-hour workweek and one day of rest for workers in the formal sector. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, nor does the law limit the amount of overtime that a worker may work. The law stipulates 30 calendar days of paid annual vacation. In September, Congress approved legislation that aligns the labor rights of domestic workers with the rights of regular, formal-sector workers. The new law replaces previous laws that granted diminished rights to domestic workers, such as less vacation time and smaller yearly bonuses. The new law elevates the minimum age to perform domestic service jobs to 18.
Noncompliance with labor law is punishable by fines. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. According to a labor NGO and labor experts, many fines went uncollected, in part because the government lacked an efficient tracking system and at times lacked political will. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.
The law has fines and criminal sanctions for occupational safety and health (OSH) violations. The government did not effectively enforce OSH laws, and penalties for these violations were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes such as negligence. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Criminal penalties are limited to cases where employers deliberately violated OSH laws, and where labor authorities had previously and repeatedly notified employers who subsequently did not adopt corrective measures. The law requires workers to prove an employer’s culpability before they can obtain compensation for work-related injuries.
In January a tanker truck transporting liquefied petroleum gas exploded in Lima, killing two and injuring dozens. Observers said the event was caused by a lack of enforcement of security and safety standards. In late June another explosion took place in an industrial complex in Arequipa where inspectors were testing a boiler, resulting in three dead workers and two injured.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many retail workers expressed concerns regarding inadequate health and safety protections, saying employers gave them only one mask per week. More than 20 workers alleged they were unjustly dismissed after asking for better protection against COVID-19.
Representatives of labor, business, and the government reported that the majority of companies in the formal sector generally complied with the law. Many workers in the informal economy, approximately 70 percent of the total labor force, received less than the minimum wage. Most informal workers were self-employed. Nearly 90 percent of Venezuelan migrant workers were in the informal sector, most of them in suboptimal conditions and earning less than the minimum wage due to their lack of proper documentation and inability to validate their academic credentials.