feminicidios en perú
Asociación de Madres Luchando por Justicia, Perú. Foto: Víctor Mallqui.

Over time, women have shown their capacity for resilience and organization to face very difficult situations and defend their rights against femicides in Peru, during the pandemic it was no exception.

By: Karla Velezmoro

Nobody else will call Rosemary Caldas Félix ‘chikibaby’ again. “My sister was very playful, very cheerful. I called her Chime trulia and she, Chiquibaby”.

Rosemary cannot avoid being invaded by melancholy and impotence when she remembers that almost three years have passed since the crime of her younger half-sister, Lesly Vicente Félix, and they still have not identified who killed her.

“I was only 19 years old. I was studying Civil Engineering at the university. Despite the fact that she was the smallest of all the siblings, she was the most mature; she was well-focused; she always gave us encouragement and advised us: ‘never give up, she told me’”, she recalls melancholy.

 Lesly with her mother. The young woman was 19 years old when she was murdered. Photo: Courtesy Familia Félix.

Lesly was murdered at dawn on July 15, 2020 in the city of Tingo María, in the midst of a pandemic. Lesly lived on the second floor of a small wooden house that was part of her sister-in-law’s property. That’s as far as the murderer came to attack her.

With one blow he knocked out her teeth, stabbed her three times in the back, and slit her neck.

“They tried to kill my sister. She has defended herself, and it shows in her nails. It strikes me that no one has heard anything. There are suspects, but justice is not doing its job”, he comments while lamenting that once again, for the fifth time, the prosecutor in the case has been changed, which does not allow the investigations to advance.

“Murderers are taken into account more. There is no empathy with the victims. We are also victims,» he says.

The violence did not stop

Not even the pandemic prevented the numbers of femicides in Peru from increasing. In 2020, the first year of the confinement to counteract covid-19, 131 femicides occurred, and in 2021, the second year, the number reached 136 cases.

The figures also reveal that in 76 of the cases of femicide in Peru registered in 2021, the alleged femicides were partners or ex-partners of the victims.

Another important fact is that 19 of the murdered women were previously reported missing. Other figures that cause concern are attempted femicide in Peru, which reached 123 in 2021.

“The pandemic exacerbated situations of violence. Homes that were already experiencing violence became a risk space because during the quarantine the aggressors stayed at home and practically had 24/7 access to the victims. The women were left at the mercy of the aggressor,” said Patricia Garrido, Director of The Aurora Program coordination unit, who also indicated that during the first year of the pandemic, the calls received to line 100 doubled, due to the impossibility of victims to report in person.

Patricia Garrido ministerio de la mujer
 Patricia Garrido women’s ministry Peru. Photo: Victor Mallqui.

In 2020, more than 235,000 calls were received denouncing situations of violence, and these calls were not always made by the victims but by the neighbors who raised the alert.

fighting mothers

Faced with this reality, it was necessary to join forces to fight against impunity. This is how Rosemary understood it, who decided to join the ‘Association of Mothers Fighting for Justice’ on June 20, 2020, the first year of the pandemic.

«If it weren’t for them, I would be disoriented,» she reflects.

Magaly Aguilar Cortez is the founder of this organization. He formed this association two years ago, in the midst of a pandemic.

Marcha 28M peru
Magaly Cortez founded the association during the pandemic. Photo: Victor Mallqui.

“I realized that I was not alone. Along the way I found more women who were dealing with cumbersome judicial processes without any support. Why not unite to make our cases visible, I thought”, says Magaly.

They were all united by the pain of being direct or indirect victims of violence. The association then became a reality to fight against femicides in Peru.

“We are daughters, mothers, and sisters of victims of femicide, transfemicide, sexual violence, disappeared persons, and homicide. This foundation is made up of forty women and eleven girls that we are empowering to continue this fight for justice,” says Magaly, who was taken from her daughter when she was only 19 years old.

marcha 28m peru
Association of Mothers Fighting for Justice, in a march in Peru. Photo: Victor Mallqui.

the memories of pain

Sheyla Torres Aguilar was Magaly’s daughter. She was a cheerful young woman who was eager to pursue the career she was studying in the future. Obstetrics.

“He was very excited about the idea of bringing lives into the world,” Magaly recalls. But all those dreams faded on March 14, 2018, when her ex-partner Romario Aco Rodriguez decided to end Sheyla’s life.

The last minutes of Sheyla’s life were recorded in a WhatsApp conversation she had with her best friend. The anguish of the young woman when she noticed that Romario was hanging around her house trying to talk to her in any way possible to convince her to return with him.

— Sheyla, I’m already leaving. Is he still there (Romario)? Or is it already gone?

– No, he’s not leaving.

However, it was too late. Romario had entered Sheyla’s house through a window and attacked her by cutting her jugular. An hour later, the police arrived and found the young woman, in her pajamas, lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

The fight for justice

Magaly considers that the state did not provide her with the legal assistance she needed to achieve justice for her daughter. “I hold the lawyer from the Women’s Emergency Center responsible, and then the prosecutor. The CEM lawyer is guilty because she was not at the first hearing; she was not at the sentencing reading. He was not interested in my daughter’s case. I had a very precarious defense, which is why my daughter’s murderer got such a low sentence.»

feminicidios en peru
Sheyla Torres grave. Photo: Courtesy Magaly Cortez.

Romario Aco initially claimed that he acted in self-defense, that he only defended himself against Sheyla, then in court he decided to confess what happened.

“As he is 19 years old and he made a sincere confession, they have given him only 15 years in prison. At 34 years of age, he will regain his freedom to continue doing harm.” Magaly laments when talking about the criminal who slit her daughter’s throat.

Magaly, tired of waiting for justice that does not arrive, decided to organize with other women who suffer the same situation in order to coordinate with the Ministries of Women and Justice the legal and psychological attention that should be provided to the victims of the cases of violence against women.

“We need lawyers who really have a vocation to serve citizens well, who want to do their job. In the interior of the country, the relatives of the victims are left practically defenseless,” says Magaly, indignant.

Precisely the women of the «Association of Mothers Fighting for Justice», led by Magaly, participated on November 25 in the march «Macho Peru: they rape, kill and disappear», which was held this year for the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women.

Carolina Garcés, Defensora del pueblo de perú
Carolina Garcés, Adjunct Defender for Women’s Rights, Ombudsman of Peru. Photo: Victor Mallqui.

Marcha en peru

Photos: Victor Mallqui.

From machismo to femicides in Peru

And, how are the figures on violence against women this year 2022? The numbers are alarming, since every three days a femicide occurs in Peru.

To date, 109 femicides have been registered in Peru and 177 assassination attempts have been made against women. Most of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 34. The aggressors in 70% of the cases are partners or ex-partners of the victims.

Other worrisome figures are those reported by the Women’s Emergency Center: more than 130,000 care for victims who have suffered violence. While the Urgent Care Service has dealt with more than 5,000 cases of family, sexual, and other high-profile violence. risk.

But unfortunately, not all attacks are reported. The deputy defender for women’s rights, Carolina Garcés, specified that «only 29% of the victims of gender violence dare to denounce, the rest do not denounce because they do not know how to do it, they are afraid, ashamed or distrust».

For Garcés, there is still structural discrimination that is rooted in Peruvian society and that causes women to be considered in a situation of inferiority and control.

The numbers of machismo in Peru

And it is that machismo is still deeply rooted in Peru, as shown by the recent survey carried out by IPSOS that provides measurements on the attitude of Peruvians towards women.

The results reveal that 29% of the Peruvians surveyed believe that the woman who wears a miniskirt is guilty of being harassed and 31% consider that a woman who goes to a party alone is guilty if she is.

Meanwhile, 54% justify the man hitting the woman if he discovers her committing infidelity.

“Although little by little this is changing, those who apply the laws, the officials, have been raised with deeply entrenched patterns and apply these gender stereotypes. That is why there are police officers who do not receive the complaint because the woman is not bruised or who think that psychological violence does not exist and that they better go and fix their situation at home or judges who resolve such as the case in which they argued that a young woman had not been a victim of rape because she wore red underwear,» explains Garcés from the Ombudsman’s Office.

Carolina Garcés, Defensora del pueblo de perú
Carolina Garcés, Adjunct Defender for Women’s Rights, Ombudsman of Peru. Photo: Victor Mallqui.

A fight against stereotypes

These prejudices were even evidenced in a sentence issued by a collegiate court in Ica, a region south of Lima. On January 19, 2019, a young woman —whose identity will be withheld— was drinking liquor with 22-year-old Giancarlo Espinoza Ramos.

Despite the fact that she assured that she did not want to continue taking it, he insisted. After having a glass of wine, the young woman — he said — lost consciousness. The next day, she woke up at his side and fled the place.

At home, the young woman tells her mother what happened and together they decide to file a complaint. After evaluating the case, the judge decided to acquit the alleged attacker.

What drew attention is that one of the reasons that the magistrates alleged to release the defendant from guilt was that the victim was wearing red panties on the day of the events.

According to the ruling, the victim’s personality «is not related to the intimate garment that she used on the day of the events, since based on the experience, this type of female undergarment is usually used on special occasions for moments of intimacy, for which (which) leads to the inference that the aggrieved party had prepared or was willing to have sexual relations with the accused.”

Faced with the scandal, on January 3, 2021, the First Criminal Chamber of Appeals and Flagrancy of Ica declared null and void the sentence that acquitted Espinoza Ramos and the magistrates of the Collegiate Court were suspended for six months for unnecessarily using ‘stereotyped grounds’ in their sentence. .

Hatun Manca

But just as women have been able to organize themselves in the midst of a pandemic to demand justice, in other areas women have come together to face the economic impact caused by the arrival of covid-19 in the country.

In 2019, monetary poverty in Peru reached 21%; a year later, in 2020, with the pandemic it increased to 30%.

Faced with this panorama, women who lived in areas of poverty and extreme poverty organized themselves to put bread on the table at home.

“Women always respond to crisis situations in solidarity. An example is the common pots that seek to help families get ahead, ”says Garcés from the Ombudsman’s Office.

Also read: The mothers of the confinement in El Salvador.

Big pot

And indeed three hours from the capital, on the way out of Lima, the Hatun Manca common pot is located — a phrase in Quechua that means big pot— on the heights of the hill of the town center of La Era in Chosica, a common pot that was formed during the pandemic.

Olla común peru
Common pot Hatun Manca, Peru. Photo: Victor Mallqui.

“When the coronavirus arrived, the neighbors got together and organized and said why don’t we put together what we have and prepare it and try to give everyone who could not deny anyone a plate of food. I have lentils, I have rice. I have potatoes, and so we put the food together and start cooking,” says Magdalena Laura, recalling the beginnings of this common pot.

The common pot works in a wooden module. Here the mothers of families prepare about 250 daily rations for the diners who form their queues carrying their midday tapers.

Olla común en perú

Photos: Victor Mallqui.

“We started on the street with just one pot. But God never abandons us, and little by little we are equipping it. There are always people who give, who donate groceries and when that is not the case, we cook with what the neighbors have; but there we do charge the modest price of 2 soles;, and with that we buy all our vegetables, our potatoes, our condiments.» he adds, while beginning to serve the menu of the day: noodles.

In Peru there are 3,325 common pots registered nationwide, only in Lima 1873.

But the common pot Hatun Manca does not have the support of the central government, nor the district municipality, frequently because it is a small pot. The mothers of the Haun Manca pot are confident that this situation will change soon.

Get to know the Hatun Manca Common Pot here:

A commitment

The mothers of Hatun Manca have assumed the commitment that together they will make their common pot grow for the benefit of the population.

Meanwhile, the mothers of Fighting for Justice have pledged to continue demanding from the authorities timely and effective attention to cases of femicides in Peru, assaults against women, and.

“I can say that there will be justice when my daughter’s murderer is sentenced to life imprisonment. And if this sanction does not arrive, I know that divine and social justice will come in which everyone knows who he is… and they will say… you are the murderer, Sheyla’s rapist, and only then can I say that I achieved something for my daughter, » Magaly reviewed.

The purpose that she has set for herself in life: justice for her case, and for other families who suffer from the violent death of their daughters, sisters or mothers.

For her part, Rosemary has faith and hope that God will continue to show her the way so that her sister Lesly’s crime does not go unpunished.

“I want to ask the president of the Huánuco Board of Prosecutors to name a permanent prosecutor in the office that sees my sister’s case, to do his job. How is it possible that in such a small town no one knows who killed my sister. The murderer cannot be more intelligent than the authorities. There are suspects, investigate.» Rosemary demands, holding up her sister’s crime scene photo.



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