Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considers report of Peru

Committee on Economic, Social
  and Cultural Rights 

3 May 2012

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Peru on that country’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Introducing the report, Juan Jimenez Mayor, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, said following the coup d’état 12 years ago Peru had a complicated situation as a country in democratic transition, but it believed in transparency in public affairs, peace, freedom of speech and respect for international laws and treaties, including human rights statutes.  The National Human Rights Council, the Ombudsman, the Constitutional Court and new legislation were all mechanisms to ensure equality and social inclusion.  Peru had halved the number of people who lived in extreme poverty.  The biggest challenges Peru faced were illegal mining, ensuring reparations for victims of the brutal 1980s – 1990s conflict, and tackling the illegal drug industry and traffickers.

Committee Experts asked questions about the impact of illegal mining, trafficking in persons, the illegal narcotics industry, forced and child labour, the cultural rights of indigenous people and the new law on prior consultation.  Experts also raised inadequacies in the educational field, the lack of access to healthcare benefits, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and discrimination towards persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. 

In concluding remarks, Mr. Jimenez Mayor said that the Government of Peru had implemented a human rights policy that represented a fundamental change in public policy in Peru.  The high economic growth in Peru must go alongside a reduction in poverty, and significant achievements had already been made in that regard. 

In concluding remarks, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for a model dialogue and said he was reassured to note that the Government of Peru attached great importance to the protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. 

The Peruvian delegation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry for Women and Minorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the National Council for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, 4 May when it will begin its consideration of the third periodic report of New Zealand (E/C.12/NZL/3).

Report of Peru

The combined second to fourth periodic reports of Peru can be read via the following link (E/C.12/PER/2-4).

Presentation of the Report of Slovakia

JUAN JIMENEZ MAYOR, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, said he hoped the high-level delegation, which included two Government Ministers, showed how highly Peru held the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Peru faced a complicated situation today because of the coup d’état 12 years ago; the current Government was only the third following the introduction of democracy.  Peru sought to prove that dictatorships or military regimes were not required to reduce poverty in Latin America – a stable democratic Government could do it.  However, there was a need for change.  Peru respected democratic institutions and constitutional order, and believed in transparency in public affairs, peace, freedom of speech and respect for international laws and treaties, including human rights statutes.  Bedding down democracy was a challenge, as was the fight against corruption, even though the kleptocracy of the 1990s had mostly been eradicated.  Peru was one of the Latin American countries whose population said it had the least amount of trust in Government institutions.  One of the biggest challenges Peru faced today was illegal mining, which had criminally devastated huge swathes of the country.  It was a difficult time for the Latin American region, which had many economic and social disparities.  

Peru sought equality through all of its policies, particularly social inclusion.  Important human rights bodies in Peru included the independent Ombudsperson, created in 1993, which served as a crucial early-warning mechanism via thematic and annual reports.  The composition of the National Human Rights Council had been extended to encompass civil society, while the newly established Vice Ministry of Human Rights was mandated to bring human rights to the forefront of Government policy.  Another important body was the Constitutional Court, which was an important source of human rights information and frequently referenced international human rights treaties.  Poverty had been tackled in a head-on way through economic growth and emphasis on the importance of social security.  The Government had seen success in its goal to halve the number of people whose income levels fell under the Millennium Development Goal extreme poverty line (23 per cent in 1991 down to 9.8 per cent in 2010), and aimed to further reduce that figure by five per cent by 2016.  The Ministry for Women had been consolidated into the Ministry for Women and Minorities, and the National Plan for Gender 2012 to 2017 was working towards gender equality.  The new 2011 Right of Indigenous or Aboriginal People to Prior Consultation Act regulated decisions taken by the Government in line with International Labour Organization treaties.  Social public expenditure in health and sanitation increased by 132 per cent between 2005 and 2010, which reduced the child mortality rate by 68 per cent and made great progress in mother and child healthcare. 

The Government believed it could not truly deliver human rights while reparations were still needed for the many victims of the brutal conflict caused by terrorist groups in the 1980s and 1990s, and had allocated 140 million Nuevo Sols for compensation in 2012 alone.  Generations of Peruvians still suffered from memories of the cruel massacres carried out by terrorist groups.  Sadly Peruvians now suffered from the illegal drug industry and traffickers who abducted and raped women and children.  Efforts to deliver human rights in Peru were still fragmented, and a new, focused, national policy was needed to unite efforts.  Unfortunately human rights were often a divisive issue in Peru, but the Government believed that human rights – especially economic, social and cultural rights - would unite Peruvians. 

Questions by the Experts

CHANDRASHEKHAR DASGUPTA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Peru, said that the meeting was not only timely, it was more than timely as no less than 15 years had elapsed since the Committee reviewed the initial report of Peru, and he hoped future interactions would be more regular.  Peru had achieved commendable economic progress in recent years, opening up new possibilities for progressively enhancing the implementation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  In recent years the Government had taken welcome initiatives which were long overdue, such as the 2007 Equal Opportunities for Men and Women Act, the 2011 Right of Indigenous or Aboriginal People to Prior Consultation Act and the adoption of the Plan to Combat Human Trafficking for the period 2011 to 2016.  Those two Acts were welcome steps to implementing the Committee’s concluding observations on Peru’s first report.  While noting progress, the Rapporteur provided a written list of some important issues not addressed by the State party in its replies to the list of issues, which the Committee would appreciate information on during the interactive dialogue.

Today a crisis was being witnessed in many countries, which was a matter of worry to the Committee, an Expert said.  Who would bear the brunt of those crises in terms of cost?  Compared with other regions, Latin America was experiencing a bonanza, an era of growth with very promising foreign investment figures.  The Committee would be interested in hearing about social indicators.  How was that bonanza being used, rather than being squandered, was it being invested in education, health, and alleviating the inequalities that existed in Peru?

All of the reports showed that there still was discrimination in Peru, commonly of indigenous peoples but also other groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.  What status did lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons hold in society, such as homosexual cohabiting couples?  Would there be any legislation to protect them by law?

There has been a gradual reduction in indigenous languages, what was the cause of that?  An Expert asked how judges were trained on the Convention and other human rights treaties.   

The significant decline in poverty in the country, the halving of the number of people living below the extreme poverty line, at a time of widespread economic uncertainty, was a major achievement.  An Expert congratulated the delegation on that, and asked whether the Covenant had ever been invoked in a domestic court.  He raised the case of L.C. versus Peru, which was brought before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  It seemed there was difficulty providing an effective remedy in that case.  Could the delegation please comment how it worked in difficult cases such as the one referred to?

An Expert asked about the constitutional interpretation of economic, social and cultural rights, and welcomed that the Constitutional Court of Peru had taken on board many of the comments of the Committee.  However, judicial interpretation of international human rights law was sometimes murky or complicated, even in Europe.  Would Peru consider amending its Constitution to ensure it was absolutely clear on international human rights treaties?

The illegal mining problem, and its clear consequences on the environment and society, was raised in the introduction.  However, Peru was a mining country and it was a national industry.  How did the Government go about correctly handling the huge-scale projects by international companies, and ensuring local populations benefited from contracts with such companies?  By and large, everyone knew that when mining companies went into any area they trespassed on the land of local people.  What measures did local communities have to protect themselves?

The law on prior consultation with indigenous peoples was very interesting, and the first of its kind in the world.  However, what mechanisms were in place to guarantee prior consultations with other, non-indigenous, populations so they could benefit from the profits coming from the mining industry, and taxes gathered and so on.  Furthermore, the new law was not binding, so how did the Government ensure the consultations were carried out?

Huge strides forward had been made in gender equality: the political quota law was commendable, as was the National Action Plan to 2016.  How did the Government plan to budget that plan at both the national and regional level?  

An Expert noted that the Government had recently entered into major trade agreements with countries including the United States, Canada, Singapore, and others.  Did the Government take into account its obligations under the Convention when it agreed to those contracts?

Response by the Delegation

Regarding the constitutional position of treaties under Peruvian law, a delegate confirmed there was no doubt whatsoever that international human rights treaties and covenants had constitutional status; they had binding jurisprudence and could not be ignored or superseded by a law of Congress.

Peru had an autonomous legal system that was very different from the European system, it was close to the North American system, but still more independent and oversaw its own budget, for example, or no other power could interfere in a case if a judge had already sent it to trial.  A delegate gave the example of a courageous judge who first cited the jurisprudence of international law under the dictatorship, and today taught judges in training at the university.  The delegate also noted that there had been a large increase in the number of judges: in 2004 there were 1,600 judges, and today there were 2,600, and a national training centre for judges.  Right now Peru was engaged in a sweeping reform of the Ministry of Justice, through the establishment of the Vice-Ministry. 

The exploitation of natural resources had taken place since the 1500s, but in the past two decades there had been an increasing awareness of environmental protection but also of exactly what the resources were worth.  That was true of minerals such as gold, zinc and copper, and Peru wanted to make sure it had a piece of the pie.  Until now there had been a voluntary contribution from companies to the State, but the Government now wanted to pass a law that would obligate companies to give a slice of their income, their profit, to the State.  Mining contracts were discussed not just at State level, but also at regional levels.

The 2011 law on prior consultation was designed in consultation with indigenous communities, although some communities did withdraw from the process and said that they did not agree with the law or the content of the International Labour Organization convention on which the law was based.  However, some communities did agree with it, and worked on the law throughout the process.  A delegate highlighted that in instances where agreement was given for a contract it was binding for both the State and the community.  Consultations had to take place in the indigenous language, or with interpreters, and the State had to lead the process.  The State guaranteed access for the indigenous community to the consultations, and kept a basic register of indigenous communities which companies could consult to see who or what their proposed project might effect.

There was no veto option for local communities, but the companies had a responsibility to mitigate any adverse effects of their investment directly to the community.   A delegate explained about the benefits of resource production for local communities.  For example, royalties from resource wealth – which numbered 50 per cent - were fairly distributed and even went to regions that had no resources, in order to share the benefits with local Governments.  The delegation said they would provide some figures at a later stage.  That 50 per cent was enabling a revolution in Peru, and the funds were being earmarked for health and education to ensure that the population could balance in an ongoing way.  For example, historically the education budget has increased by 60 per cent each year and budgets for social programmes increased from 10,000 million in 2010 to 17,000 million in 2012.  Constitutionally speaking Peru was obliged to provide pensions, whether the individual had contributed during their working life or not. 

Concerning the legal status of international human rights treaties, raised in the Committee’s recommendations of 1997 when the first report of Peru was considered, the treaty was always considered supreme over domestic law.  If a judge was faced with two possible interpretations, he would interpret all fundamental rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, in the light of the treaties that they derived from.

Follow-Up Questions by the Experts

An Expert pointed out that alongside economic development, sustainable development was equally important.  She also asked at what school level was human rights education introduced, was it early, at the elementary level?

There had been a boom in illegal mining in Latin America, as well as legal mining, an Expert said, that was increasingly funding organized crime, such as drug trafficking.    Looking at Colombia for example, some sectors of drug trafficking had expanded their activities into illegal mining at a trans-national and international level.  Each country had a responsibility to address issues within its own borders of course, but what policies did the Government have to deal with the transnational aspects of illegal mining, for example dialogue with other Governments leading to joint policy initiatives?  It was a problem of huge magnitude that could not be solved by one country alone. 

Response by the Delegation

Peru had strict and robust legislation on mining, nobody could get involved in mining without a Government concession and carrying out environmental impact reports, and had to guarantee it would shut the mine at the end of the process.  Peru had very high standards to regulate that area. 

The Expert was correct that mafias were operating in illegal mining, from Russia, China and other countries, who were linking up with other crimes such as trafficking and smuggling of drugs and persons.  New legal norms treated illegal mining as a very serious offence with heavy penalties attached. 

However, in one region alone there were 30,000 people involved in illegal mining: that was more than just a social phenomenon, and the Government had to bring those people back onto the straight and narrow road.  It had already started, and had been consulting with the Inter-American Forum in Washington to see how other Governments could help in the battle.  Like trafficking, illegal mining should not be able to destabilise democracies.  The international community had to be informed of what was happening and to know that illegal products, such as gold, were being funnelled into the informal market.  It was not only a matter of concern to Peru, but to the entire region, and in fact the entire world. 

Questions by Experts

An Expert asked about equalising the gender pay gap, following the rule of equal pay for equal work.  Furthermore, the report referred to a minimum wage system but showed that half, 50 per cent, of private sector workers earned less than minimum wage.  That was surprising as the minimum wage was presumably not very high: could the delegation say what it was, and whether it was enough for somebody to pay for housing, food and essential costs?

Another Expert raised the problem of forced labour, including slave labour and child labour, which was a particular problem in the Amazon basin.  Did the Government have a plan to tackle it, and how far along were they on that alarming issue?

Work in the agricultural sector was increasingly insecure, but there was a strong incentive to work in that area, above all agro-export businesses, but workers did not have many rights: there was a lack of trade unions and collective bargaining.  The State party was under the obligation, through the Covenant, to adopt development policies that fulfilled the right to work. 

An Expert pointed out that a large amount of persons with disabilities did not have access to social security, and asked whether the Government had any plans to change that, especially since it ratified the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in 2008.

In the 1997 concluding observations the Committee expressed concern that the bulk of the population was at that time excluded from any form of social security because of the sizeable sector of informal workers.  How large was that sector today, and what efforts had been made to regularize that sector? 

A concern voiced by the Committee in 1997 was that private pensions should not be promoted to the degradation of public pensions.  What had the Government done to respond to that?

One reason many people did not have access to social security related to the low birth registration: what was being done about that?  What percentage of children in the Amazon basin remained unregistered and thus unable to access services?

Response from the Delegation

Responding to these questions and comments, the delegation said that Peru had one of the highest growth rates of Latin America, and over the past decade its gross domestic product had tripled.  In 2011 exports from Peru reached record levels: there was a tripling of traditional exports, while non-traditional exports, namely manufactured products, doubled.  In 2011 foreign investment exceeded $ one billion.  Peru had a healthy economy based on strict fiscal rules, proper management of accounts and promotion of greater social expenditure with the objective of reducing poverty and promoting social inclusion.  Responsible investment was part of that objective.  Economic growth of course reduced poverty by increasing employment and family income, and through greater tax revenue and economic activity, which allowed an increase in social budget and infrastructure investment.  There had been a major increase in public expenditure related to social spending.  The economy was at the service of the people: poverty reduction was one of the most important indicators Peru had to show, and it had met the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty by half.

Another social indicator was chronic malnutrition in children aged five years and under, which was a priority issue for the Government.  In the last decade the rate was reduced from 20.9 per cent to 16 per cent, while the reduction in rural areas was even greater.  Peru had met its target of reducing child mortality (in children five years and younger) by two thirds eight years early, in 2006.  These few examples of social indicators did not negate the problems that still needed to be solved in Peru.  The centuries-old poverty gap still existed and there were still problems in terms of social inclusion.  Peru was prepared to benefit from all of the Committee’s advice. 

The Government had adopted a methodology of evaluation to determine which jobs could receive equal pay for equal labour in order to eliminate the gender pay gap, as announced by the President in his address this week on Labour Day.  The Government was particularly concerned about promoting the quality of employment.  Every three months national household surveys were held throughout the country, and together with an electronic register of workers, provided wage information on formal employment and the gender pay gap.  That data was broken down by gender and job sector.  The Labour Law, which was currently being drafted, would provide for improvements in temporary contracts, workplace inspections, and health at work regulations. 

The unemployment rate in Peru was four per cent but in rural areas unemployment was very low, less than one per cent.  Low income levels were a challenge.  The International Labour Organization had indeed reported cases of forced labour in Peru’s Amazon region, and the State was dealing with those through intra-sectoral coordinated measures and the National Plan to Combat Forced Labour, supported by the International Labour Organization.  Forced labour was generally linked to trafficking or illegal timber activities. 

Peru was taking measures to limit the amount of unregistered workers and increase workplace inspections.  An electronic registration system had been launched to make it easier for businesses to register their workers, and the tax system had been made more straightforward.  In 2006 the inspection unit was increased, with more inspectors on better conditions.  Non-payment of minimum wage was now considered a very serious violation, to be fined $750 and upwards.  In 2010 only 30 per cent of formal and informal salaried workers received less than the minimum wage.  The real minimum wage had increased since 2011, which in nominal terms meant wages went up by 35 per cent.  Next month the minimum wage would be further increased to $280 per month. 

There was no penalisation of sexual relations between adults of the same gender, and no criminal prosecution if relations took place on a free and voluntary basis between adults.  There were protective legal provisions, namely the Criminal Code, which punished discriminatory acts of any sort.  Criminal prosecutions would take place when appropriate.  The legal system did not recognize marriage between persons of the same sex: in Peru marriage was a heterosexual institution.  Accordingly there could be no inheritance rights stemming from a union of people of the same sex.  That of course did not prevent civil agreements between same-sex couples, but not in the form of marriage unions protected by the law, as seen in other countries in the world.  Yes, there had been some incidences of discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation but Peru did not allow discrimination in public places. 

Concerning the employment and advancement of persons with disabilities, approximately 30 per cent of persons with disabilities were not employed.  However, the Government endeavoured to provide training and support to those people; between 2010 and 2011 over 3,000 people were trained and 46 people were placed in jobs in the private sector.  The Government promoted accessibility in municipal areas, and local and regional governments were authorized to use tax units to implement programmes and services for protection, participation and organization on behalf of persons with disabilities, and to set up regional offices to run those programmes.  A quota was established for the recruitment of people with disabilities in the public sector, for which non-compliance would be punished with a fine.  However, that quota needed to be enforced.  New regulations would help in the future.  Work still needed to be done to help persons with disabilities in Peru.

The Government was concentrating on achieving universal issuance of documents to all persons, and approximately 98 per cent of the population now had documents.  People living in the most remote rural areas made up the two per cent of indigenous peoples who had not yet been documented.

It was true that the number of persons who spoke an indigenous language as their mother tongue had reduced.  That reduction was because of migration from the countryside to cities, and as Spanish was the majority language of course people sought to use it.  Now only about 25 per cent of the population lived in rural areas.  Since indigenous languages were spoken in rural areas, the reduction in the rural population led to a fall in the use of those languages.  A second reason was that Peru had a very mixed-race nature.  When training and Government programmes were carried out in rural areas, indigenous peoples preferred to take part in Spanish, to enable them to improve their knowledge of it.  In 2011 a law was passed to specify the scope of linguistic rights, establish a national registry of languages and to train teachers to develop dictionaries and teach minority languages.  It was hoped those measures would expand the number of people who were taught in a native language. 
 
Following a new law on State health insurance, 65 per cent of the population were now insured.  The State, as a matter of priority, concentrated on insuring the largest number of people with an emphasis on the poorest members of the population.  Already 80 per cent of the poorest were insured.  Universal coverage was provided to all persons who needed emergency health treatment: anybody in an accident could use the mobile emergency services.  The biggest challenge was with the one third of the population – the self-employed, small businesses – who did not contribute to health insurance because they did not pay social security.  For that very important group, which had no social security culture, the Government had set up incentives for them to take out insurance.  One incentive was that the Government would pay 50 per cent of the cost. 

Questions from the Experts

Was there an urban development plan that applied to all municipalities, and did it provide for public participation?  Did the national cross-cutting plan to combat poverty cover the right to adequate housing?

An Expert quoted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, a former member of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, speaking about polluted rivers in Peru which badly affected people’s access to clean drinking water.  What had been done to reverse the pollution and punish perpetrators? 

Over 125,000 people had very serious health problems after suffering political violence or torture in the past.  It was difficult to register them all and provide them with support.  The report stated that in 2008, 11 mental health teams treated 70,000 cases, of which 6.5 per cent were people suffering from repercussions of political violence.  The Expert commended the delegation for that, and asked if they could provide more recent statistics as well. 

What was the scope of the phenomenon of child labour under the age of 14, an Expert asked, and how effective had the Government’s measures been so far?  He asked the same question about the phenomenon of street children in Peru.  What legislation was in place on trafficking in persons, particularly trafficking of women and girls and mafia involvement in drug trafficking.  What cases had come to court, and what sentences had been handed down for that crime?

An Expert asked about the minimum age for marriage, with regard to the elimination of discrimination against women.  The age was 16, which the Committee believed was too low because 16 year old children should still be in school. 

What did the Government consider to be essential services for reproductive and sexual health as provided by the State?  Could the delegation provide more clarification about contraceptives, the Expert asked, were they considered to be an essential service, and not just traditional contraceptives, but modern contraceptives which did go alongside with women’s rights.  There were a lot of illegitimate and premature births among adolescents in Peru.  Abortion was penalised in many cases.  What had been done to safeguard effective access to abortion?  There was a contradiction in criminal law terms because sexual relations with children have been de-penalized, but sexual relations between children aged 14 to 16 were penalized.  That was a major problem because in practice sexual relations between adolescents happened the world over.  How did the Government plan to reduce the high levels of maternal mortality, infant mortality, and especially for girls under the age of 20 years (as 60 per cent of girls under the age of 20 had had non-planned pregnancies and births, probably caused by a lack of contraceptives). 

The delegation was asked about the population’s access to generic medicines, as the patent’s owner had to give permission for the medicine, even when the patent had expired, for another five years.  That affected the accessibility of the population to affordable medicine. 

Response by the Delegation

Drug trafficking and drug use were problems that had an impact on many people in Peru.  In Peru the term ‘narco-terrorism’ was used.  Drug trafficking was of course a crime, and the precursors were as well.  Illegal drug use was not penalised, but it was forbidden to sell drugs.  It included kidnapping of women and children.  Children were forced against their will to take up arms.  A few weeks ago a major operation was carried out, as seen on television, to save some women and children from kidnappers.  Those kidnappers were very powerful and had $100 million available to them.  Some were still captive, and the Government hoped to save them quickly and put the perpetrators before the courts.  

A multi-sectoral working group to tackle trafficking of persons, including migrants, was set up in 2008.  There were two approaches to tackling the drug trafficking industry.  The national approach was to attack every link in the chain, from the production of coca, controlling the inputs, the ingredients that went into the production of cocaine, trafficking, sales and marketing and protection.  No aspect was left out. 

In its fight against illegal narcotics, the State focused on two areas: supply control and demand reduction.  Controlling supply meant a sustainable reduction of coca crops, or even eradication, which was Peru’s policy.  Peru did not believe in the legalisation of drugs, but it did believe that the reduction of cultivation would only be sustainable if accompanied by alternative economic incentives; to persuade coca growers to produce other, legal crops that they could earn a living from.  For peasants to opt for alternative crops they had to be aware that the State would always eradicate their coca crops.   Demand reduction was carried out through educational campaigns, a policy of rehabilitation and treatment of cocaine addicts, and a policy of de-penalizing consumption. 

The topic of reparation was very difficult: $ 60 million had been allocated for reparations.  Most victims were already poor, and thus were double-victims, both from poverty and violence, and did not have much access to courts. 

Trafficking in persons was already a crime in Peru and carried a maximum sentence of 25 years. 
 
The Government had put in place a plan to prohibit illegal mining in the penal code.  There was also a strategy in place to prevent human trafficking.  Several individuals had already been arrested.  There was a debate in Peru about how best to manage trafficking and illegal mining.  The mining activity had to be regularized, controlled by the State and various Government bodies responsible. 

Peru used the most progressive legislation available in Latin America to include the crime of domestic violence in its penal code.  Peru was making every effort to improve its laws, and had already condemned one person for domestic violence to a penalty of 25 years imprisonment.  Domestic violence did exist in Peru, but that penalty was very dissuasive.  The minimum age for marriage in Peru was 18, but exceptionally marriage could take place at 16, although it must be for good reasons and with the consent of the parents. 

There was an Urban Development Plan, which provided for urban planning in the main cities of Peru, including Lima.  By law citizens could participate in development processes, such as setting budgets. 

The problem of street children was a difficult issue to define.  A programme to work with children and adolescents in vulnerable and high-risk situations had seen some success, dealing with 50,000 children so far.  Common issues included malnutrition, school drop-out, addiction and abuse.  The Department of Tourism conducted programmes to prevent the sexual exploitation of children by tourists, alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry for Women.

The National Strategy for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labour, in association with non-governmental organizations, involved actions such as increased family income.  The strategy aimed to reduce tolerance of child labour, increase child places at primary and secondary schools, and establish guarantees for adolescent employment. 

Questions from Experts

In a final round of questions, Experts asked the delegation for information on illiteracy rates in Peru, broken down by gender and age; on training for teachers working among bilingual indigenous populations; and about the distinction between indigenous groups and ethnic groups.  The delegation was also asked what measures it had used to prevent school drop-out. 

Response by the Delegation

In response, the delegation said that in Peru 98 per cent of all medicines manufactured were generic.  The National Generic Medicines Policy ensured that people could access them, and that doctors prescribe them where possible in all cases.  The Government wanted to increase access to generic medicines because they cost so much less, they did not have as many customs duties or tariffs.  Exceptions included the approximate two per cent of medicines protected by intellectual property rights, while some were well-known as treatments for diseases that were expensive to treat, such as cancer and diabetes. 

In 2011 Peru’s population was close to 30 million people.  Of that number 10 million were teenagers: 30.5 per cent of the population.  Around 13.9 per cent of female teenagers aged 15 to 19 years of age had had a pregnancy.  That percentage was higher in rural areas, at 19 per cent, but in urban areas the rate was lower.  Overall, regardless of the geographical area, teenage pregnancies were increasing.  In Lima in 2010 1,229 teenage pregnancies were recorded.

Contraception for family planning purposes was free in Peru.  Around 90 per cent of women of child-bearing age used well-known contraception methods for women such as the injection, the pill, the coil and sterilization.  Less well-known methods such as implants and the vaginal method were also used.  Access to contraception was free, but in reality statistics showed that 80 per cent of teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 did not use contraception.  Around 55 per cent of people aged below 24 did not use contraception.  The Government sought to reduce disparities in the use of contraceptive methods through strategies such as public awareness-raising and regional youth councils. 

A decree was issued regarding the production of the morning-after-pill, which had a specific generic name.  The courts prohibited the free distribution of the morning-after-pill because insufficient proof had been provided as to whether it had abortive effects.  The Ministry was now re-examining the morning-after-pill and calling on specialists from the World Health Organization for consultations and scientific proof that that pill did not have abortive effects. 

Abortion was penalised, but therapeutic abortion was available and legal if a woman’s health and life were seriously threatened by the pregnancy.  For example, if a woman had an ectopic pregnancy she could receive a therapeutic abortion in a State hospital.  There were guidelines for therapeutic abortions.  It was not legal for a woman who became pregnant as a result of being raped to have an abortion.

The annual 2012 report on the neo-natal mortality rate recorded the mortality rate of infants who died in the first 29 days of life.  The rate was decreasing – for example in 2007 there were 15 deaths per 1,000 live births but in 2011 the figure was 10 per 1,000.  Common causes of death included childbirth complications, poverty and infection.  The rate of hospital births in the poorest areas had increased, although there was still a considerable gap between hospital births in rural and in urban areas. 

Peru was a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in South America, and most of those were avoidable.   Between 1990 and 1996 there were 265 maternal deaths for each 1,000 births, compared to an average maternal mortality rate of 27 in developed countries.  By 2010 that rate had been reduced to 123 deaths in every 1,000 births, due to prioritising by the State. 

Concerning sexual relations with and between minors, while the law forbidding sexual relations between an adult and a minor was clear, some had criticized the law criminalizing consenting sexual relations between minors.  The penalties were not applicable to minors, and as those issues were very delicate they had to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Regarding literacy rates in schools, a delegate said that there were sometimes alarming disparities between rural and urban schools.  For example a student in a rural school may only reach an average reading comprehension level of 7.8, but the average level would be much higher in an urban school.  There was also a worrisome gap between private and State schools.  In 2005 the school drop-out rate was 2.7 per cent, but by 2010 it had dropped to 1.7 per cent at the primary school level.  The Committee would be provided with a breakdown of those figures by department.  The new Government had allocated the equivalent of $ 8 million to improve primary and secondary education. 

Historically speaking Peru owed a great debt to its founding peoples, the indigenous peoples, who were already living in Peru at the time of the conquest.  Most were communities descended from the Inca Empire, and around 6,000 recognized communities were shared with neighbouring country Bolivia.  The majority of those communities who lived in the Amazon and Andean areas held titles to their land.  Of the 6,000 communities some 962 did not yet hold land titles.  As of 2007 there were 4,450,000 indigenous persons living in Peru.  However, those who were actually recognized as indigenous persons by ethnic origin would be more like 30 per cent of the entire population, which at that time was 28 million.  On the whole those indigenous communities, which represented a great wealth to Peru and the entire world, were shrinking. 

There was a 60 per cent lack of drinking water in rural areas and 20 per cent lack in urban areas.  The Government was endeavouring to provide those services. 

Concluding Remarks

JUAN JIMENEZ MAYOR, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, said that the Government of Peru had implemented a human rights policy that represented a fundamental change in public policy in Peru.  There was a new Ministry for Human Rights, and Peru worked towards formulating policy that was equal and inclusive, and worked to protect human rights.  The high economic growth in Peru must go alongside a reduction in poverty, and significant achievements had already been made in that regard.  Mr. Jimenez Mayor thanked the Committee for the very productive dialogue, and said he thought the reporting process was very important.  Peru would welcome any suggestions the Committee made and receive them democratically. 

ARIRANGA GOVINDASAMY PILLAY, Committee Chairperson, thanked the Minister and the high-level delegation for its frank, friendly and useful dialogue with the Committee, which appreciated Peru’s cooperation and the detailed information it provided.  It was indeed how a dialogue should be conducted, as the Covenant touched on a wide range of Governmental responsibilities.  It was reassuring to note that the Government of Peru attached great importance to the protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, and he hoped it would not prove too difficult for the Government to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Covenant.  Mr. Pillay also emphasized the importance of timely reports. 

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