A staggering 1,200-plus girls and women are missing and feared dead in Peru since the Covid-19 confinement began, authorities said Tuesday.
Home to 33 million people, Peru has long had what is described as a “horrific domestic violence problem.” Experts say that Covid-19, compounded by home confinement, job losses and a health crisis, has made the situation much worse.
“We have been under lockdown conditions for four months and the extent of violence against women has increased to very scary proportions,” says Eliana Revollar of Peru’s National Ombudsman’s office. She added that seventy percent of victims are minors.
“During the quarantine, since March 16, more than 1,200 women and girls have been reported missing and we fear they are dead,” Revollar says. Before Covid-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every day; since the lockdown, the number has surged to eight per day.
Revollar said Peru’s situation is made worse because the lack of a national missing persons registry. “This makes it difficult to track cases of missing women and we worry that lives may be unnecessarily lost as a result. We are talking to the national police about establishing a system but it will probably have to wait until after the health crisis.”
In a radio interview, Walter Gutierrez, Peru’s chief ombudsman, said, “We need to know what has happened to them as well as institute programs to address the underlying conditions. This is a human right problem that has been ignored for too long and now it has reached terrible proportions.”
Women’s rights groups and NGOs say that too often police refuse to investigate domestic violence, make fun of victims or claim that the missing have left their homes willingly. They claim that officials not only ignore the problem of domestic violence but of human trafficking and forced prostitution as well.
In January, the case of university student and activist Solsiret Rodriguez was in the headlines when her body was found three years after she went missing. Rights groups say she was murdered for her activism.
Last year there were 166 confirmed killings of women in Peru and many believe the true number is much higher.