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This article builds on long-term research looking at violence against women in both war and peace, and recently gathered data regarding persistent failure to use policy as a tool to reduce such violence in Peru. The research shows that impunity and tolerance for violence against women persists despite a state that has actively intervened to eradicate such violence for some twenty years. Including the state as perpetrator of violence in the analysis of impunity helps understand the failure of policy and legislation. Moreover, the notion of patriarchy allows us to look at a historically shaped male-centered and sexist organization of state and society, and helps understand the ambiguities in contemporary policy and legislation.
L.C. was 13 years old when she was repeatedly raped by a 34-year-old man who lived in her neighborhood in an impoverished region near Peru’s capital city of Lima. Her ordeal started in 2006, and by 2007 she learned that she was pregnant. Desperate, L.C. attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of a building next door to her house. Neighbors discovered her and rushed her to the hospital. But even though doctors concluded that her spine needed to be realigned immediately—and even though abortion in Peru is legal where the mother’s health and life are at risk--they refused to operate on L.C. because she was pregnant. L.C. eventually suffered a miscarriage because of the severity of her injuries. Several weeks after the miscarriage, four months after she was told she needed surgery, L.C. underwent the spinal procedure. She was told shortly thereafter, however, that the surgery would have little to no effect and that she would remain paralyzed. On June 18, 2009, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights filed a human rights petition on behalf of L.C. against Peru before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The petition charges that Peru’s failure to implement measures that guarantee a woman’s ability to obtain essential reproductive health services in a timely manner, particularly legal abortion, not only violates the Peruvian Constitution, but international treaty obligations. Among other remedies, L.C. is asking that the Peruvian government acknowledge the human rights violation; provide L.C. with reparations, including physical and mental rehabilitation; and issue necessary measures so that no other woman is denied her right to comprehensive healthcare and therapeutic abortion.