Peru

 

  • ‘Invocamos el principio de extraterritorialidad para llamar al Estado chino a rendir cuentas del impacto de sus inversiones en América Latina’

    English

    CIVICUS conversa con las cuatro responsables de la iniciativa regional “Explorando nuevos caminos para la defensa de los derechos humanos frente a las inversiones chinas en América del Sur: El Examen Periódico Universal de las Naciones Unidas y el Principio de Extraterritorialidad”: Paulina Garzón,de la Iniciativa para las Inversiones Sostenibles China América-Latina (IISCAL),María Marta Di Paola, dela Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) de Argentina; Sofía Jarrín, del Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES) de Ecuador; y Julia Cuadros, de CooperAcción, una organización de Perú.

    1. ¿Qué impacto están teniendo las inversiones chinas en América Latina, y por qué es preocupante?

    A pesar de la desaceleración de la economía china en los últimos años, las inversiones chinas continúan creciendo en América Latina. En 2016 los préstamos soberanos de los bancos chinos alcanzaron 21.000 millones de dólares (más que el monto prestado por todos los bancos multilaterales) y la inversión directa llegó a los 10.358 millones (un crecimiento de 29,4% con respecto a 2015). La República Popular de China es el primer o el segundo socio comercial para todos los países sudamericanos, y resalta el hecho de que la gran mayoría de las exportaciones hacia China se concentra en petróleo, minerales y soja. En otras palabras, las inversiones chinas o motorizadas por la demanda china han dado un nuevo impulso al sector primario y, dentro de éste, a las industrias extractivas, de modo tal que la relación económica entre China y América Latina impone grandes desafíos tanto ambientales como en relación con los derechos de las comunidades donde se asientan estas inversiones.

    El crecimiento y la escala del financiamiento chino en América Latina ha tomado a las organizaciones sociales y a las comunidades por sorpresa. Hasta ahora, es poco lo que la sociedad civil ha podido hacer para demandar rendición de cuentas directamente a los bancos, compañías y agencias reguladoras chinas, en parte por falta de conocimiento y acceso a los procedimientos de estas instituciones, pero sobre todo por el hermetismo que las caracteriza. Ello se ve agudizado por el hecho de que la mayoría de los capitales chinos que llegan a la región aterrizan en Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador, Perú y Venezuela, países que tienen una o varias de las siguientes características: dificultades para acceder a los mercados financieros; gobernanza ambiental debilitada; y disminución de espacios de participación ciudadana. En estos países, vemos que las empresas transnacionales han contribuido a la violación de los derechos humanos, entre las que se cuenta la práctica sistemática de criminalización de los defensores ambientales.

    Sobre esta misma línea, cabe agregar que China ha seguido el principio de “no interferencia” en la construcción de su relación con América Latina, lo cual ha dado como resultado una interacción casi exclusiva con los gobiernos de turno, sin inclusión de actores no gubernamentales. En este contexto, las organizaciones sociales latinoamericanas no hemos logrado establecer canales de diálogo sustanciales con las instituciones chinas, y tanto menos en lo que se refiere a la demanda de rendición de cuentas acerca de los impactos negativos de su intervención.

    1. ¿Qué está haciendo la sociedad civil de América Latina para llamar a China a rendir cuentas de los efectos ambientales y sociales de sus inversiones en la región?

    Un grupo de organizaciones de varios países que han visto su situación de derechos humanos deteriorarse por efecto de la penetración de estas inversiones, hemos decidido hacer uso de las herramientas que ofrece el sistema internacional de derechos humanos para establecer una conversación sobre la necesidad de llamar a los gobiernos a rendir cuentas de los efectos de sus inversiones y de las acciones de sus empresas en el extranjero. Para ello aprovecharemos el hecho de que la República Popular de China realizará en noviembre de 2018 su Examen Periódico Universal (EPU) en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas (ONU), la evaluación de derechos humanos a la que deben someterse cada cuatro años todos los estados miembros de la ONU, sin excepción.

    Pese a que no cuenta con una autoridad y mecanismos de aplicación, el sistema universal de derechos humanos, dentro del cual se encuentra el mecanismo EPU, ofrece valiosas oportunidades de incidencia para la sociedad civil en todo el mundo. El EPU ofrece un espacio para que las comunidades afectadas en sus derechos civiles, políticos, económicos, sociales o culturales hagan oír sus reclamos. Por lo general, la responsabilidad por los derechos vulnerados es adjudicada al Estado dentro de cuyo territorio ocurren dichas violaciones de derechos. Así, en el marco del EPU de China, el grueso de las recomendaciones que recibe el Estado chino se vinculan con el trato que reciben sus ciudadanos dentro de su territorio. Sin embargo, nada impide a las comunidades afectadas en sus derechos en diversos países de América Latina presentar reclamos por las acciones de un país extranjero miembro de las Naciones Unidas. En otras palabras, nada impide a los grupos vulnerados invocar el principio de extraterritorialidad para demandar a un Estado extranjero el cumplimiento de las obligaciones de derechos humanos contraídas por la aceptación de los instrumentos de las Naciones Unidas, así como a través de todo compromiso voluntario que dicho Estado haya ratificado y asumido.

    Eso es precisamente lo que pensamos hacer durante la EPU de China. En vistas de este proceso, el Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES) de Ecuador, la Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) de Argentina, CooperAcción de Perú y la Iniciativa para las Inversiones Sostenibles China América-Latina (IISCAL), hemos creado una alianza regional con el objeto de investigar colaborativamente y elaborar un informe sombra nacional para cada uno de los países sudamericanos incluidos en el proyecto, así como un informe sombra regional. En marzo de 2018 estos informes serán presentados a la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas como aportes para el EPU de China.

    Esta iniciativa cobró vida en 2017, con la búsqueda de una alianza regional para fortalecer nuestro trabajo de incidencia frente al Estado chino. La participación en el mecanismo del EPU es para nosotras una ventana de oportunidad para canalizar las preocupaciones y visibilizar las múltiples violaciones a los derechos humanos de las comunidades afectadas por proyectos cuyo financiamiento y operación se vinculan con inversiones del Estado chino.

    Las organizaciones involucradas tenemos una extensa y probada trayectoria de trabajo sobre financiamiento internacional y derechos humanos y ambientales, y nos contamos entre las pocas organizaciones de la sociedad civil de la región que han realizado un trabajo sistemático de investigación e incidencia sobre inversiones chinas en sus respectivos países. Además, gozamos de la confianza, credibilidad y reconocimiento de las organizaciones de base y otros actores relevantes. De hecho, en varios casos, hemos abogado frente a las entidades chinas para que mejoren sustancialmente su comportamiento ambiental y social y para que actúen como buenos ciudadanos globales. La falta de respuestas por parte de tales entidades nos ha llevado a buscar nuevos espacios de interlocución con la República Popular de China en los foros internacionales. Tenemos la esperanza de que el EPU de China y demás mecanismos de las Naciones Unidas ofrezcan el tan necesario espacio para lograr un compromiso serio de parte de los bancos y empresas chinas en materia de internalización de los principios de derechos humanos en sus operaciones en el extranjero.

    1. ¿Cuál es el sustento legal de la iniciativa? ¿A qué instrumentos, convenciones y legislación apelarán para apoyar sus reclamos?

    La República Popular de China ha ratificado varios instrumentos internacionales de derechos humanos. Entre ellos, los más importantes a la hora de constituir el marco de referencia y argumentación para el trabajo que pretendemos llevar adelante son el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, el Protocolo de San Salvador (Protocolo Adicional a la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos en materia de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales) y los Principios de Maastricht sobre las Obligaciones Extraterritoriales de los Estados en el Área de los Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales. Estos últimos, en particular, establecen que los Estados tienen la obligación de respetar, proteger y cumplir los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales tanto dentro de su territorio como fuera de él, y estipulan que la responsabilidad del Estado se extiende a los actos y las omisiones de los agentes no estatales que actúan por instrucciones o bajo la dirección o el control del Estado en cuestión.

    Cabe señalar que si bien nuestra argumentación se basa en el principio de responsabilidades extraterritoriales, ello no excluye la posibilidad de apelar en los informes sombra a otros instrumentos internacionales que integran el sistema universal de las Naciones Unidas, aún si no han sido ratificados por el Estado chino. En ese sentido, deba presumirse que, al aceptar ser miembro de las Naciones Unidas, China se compromete a promover sus principios y apoyar la implementación de los tratados, pactos y convenios internacionales elaborados en el seno de la organización.

    También es importante destacar que según el artículo 16 de la Constitución China, las empresas estatales tienen poder de decisión con respecto al funcionamiento y la gestión dentro de los límites prescritos por la ley, a condición de que se sometan al liderazgo unificado del Estado, en cuyo caso deben cumplir con todas las obligaciones del plan estatal. En otras palabras, las empresas estatales chinas son actores cuasi-estatales. Funcionan como una extensión de la estructura del Estado chino, ya que le pertenecen, son patrocinadas por él o actúan en pos de sus intereses. Ello convierte a las responsabilidades de derechos humanos de las empresas estatales de la República Popular de China en responsabilidades del Estado chino.

    El hecho de que China ocupe un puesto en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas y de que, durante una visita del Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas a China el Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de ese país haya declarado que “la ONU es una plataforma efectiva para los desafíos globales y la institución central para los esfuerzos internacionales en tratar los asuntos globales” constituye para nosotros una ventana de oportunidad. El EPU de la República Popular de China que se realizará en noviembre del 2018 es la oportunidad más concreta y cercana que tenemos.

    • Visite las páginas web delCDES,CooperAcción,FARN eIISCAL, o siga en Twitter a @CDESecuador, @CooperAccionPER, @farnargentina y @PaulinaGarzón

     

  • Advocating for women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Peru, a risky fight against powerful enemies

    Spanish

    CIVICUS speaks to María Ysabel Cedano, Director of DEMUS –Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights, a Peruvian feminist organisation that since 1987 defends human rights, and particularly women’s sexual and reproductive rights, by promoting their free exercise and questioning the hegemonic cultural paradigm on women and their sexuality. DEMUS carries out public opinion campaigns and advocacy work with the three branches of government; it conducts strategic litigation and promotes mobilisation on issues related to the promotion of equality and non-discrimination, a life free from gender-based violence, access to justice, and sexual and reproductive rights.

    1. How would you describe the context for the exercise of feminist activism in Peru?
    Generally speaking, conditions for activism greatly depend on the ideology, programme and nature of the organisation and movement in question - on its stance regarding the state and the incumbent government, and on its relationship with political forces and the powers that be.

    Due to our agenda, we feminists are antagonists of Fujimorism, the political movement founded by Alberto Fujimori, who ruled Peru between 1990 and 2000. Our organisation has criticised and opposed them since the 1990s, as we have fought for justice and reparations for the thousands of victims of the Fujimori administration’s policy of systematic forced sterilisation. Its victims were mostly peasant, indigenous and poor women who underwent irreversible surgical contraception without being able to give their free and informed consent, in a context of widespread violence.

    On this issue, in 2003 we reached a Friendly Settlement Agreement (FSA) in the Mamérita Mestanza case. As a result, the Peruvian state acknowledged its responsibility for human rights violations in the context of the forced sterilisation policy and committed to providing justice and reparation to victims. We also obtained favourable statements by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that have boosted our work to defend the right to access justice and to promote a policy of integral reparations. That made us a target of Fujimorist attacks, in the form of defamation in the national media as well as in social media. We have in fact sued former congressman Alejandro Aguinaga, under investigation in the preliminary examination of forced sterilisations as a crime against humanity and other serious violations of human rights, which the Public Ministry opened in 2004 in compliance with the already mentioned FSA. The case still remains in its preliminary stages due to political interference, which we have publically denounced. For more than fourteen years, the Public Ministry has failed to accuse former President Fujimori and his former Health Ministers, including Aguinaga, and no prosecution has taken place. In the meantime, Fujimorism has not undergone any renovation whatsoever: it still does not believe in human rights and cannot fathom the right of women to decide on their own. In fact they all remain very convinced that it is the state that has to decide for them.

    The other antagonists we have as a result of our feminist agenda are the Catholic and Evangelical ecclesial hierarchies, as well as other conservative and fundamentalist religious groups such as Opus Dei, Sodalitium and Bethel. These are the leaders of an anti- sexual and reproductive rights agenda and seek to legislate and implement public policies to strengthen the institutions that guarantee their political, economic, social and cultural dominance, thereby ignoring the secular character of the state that the authorities in turn fail to enforce. For decades they have run a strong campaign against what they call “gender ideology”, not just in Peru but throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and beyond. These are multimillion-dollar campaigns that maintain that “gender ideology” attacks life, marriage and family. The funding they poured into the fear campaign against the peace accords in Colombia is a good example of this. They have also promoted a campaign called "Don't mess with my children" in several countries in the region.

    While these actors have questioned the scientific and legal validity of the gender perspective, the concept of gender has been adopted in the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and in standards such as CEDAW, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Convention of Belém do Pará. In Peru it was included into several laws, public policies and institutions, as a result of which conservative sectors are currently trying, for instance, to eliminate the gender perspective from the school curriculum, including all allusions to sexual orientation and gender identity. They have done so by means of both street actions and lawsuits. These however have not yielded the desired results: the overwhelming response from the Ministry of Justice’s Attorney General even covered them in ridicule. As a result, they had no alternative left other than using their power in Congress, where there are currently two bills that have been submitted by Fujimorism towards that aim.

    Lastly, in addition to harassing us through their press, as they have always done, these sectors now also attack us for our funding sources. They say we are the instruments of great powers seeking to impose Western models of family and sexuality in our country.

    Thanks to a journalistic investigation that then became a criminal investigation, we currently know of child sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Sodalitium, one of the most conservative and powerful groups within the Catholic Church. The scandal contributed to weakening the attacks coming from the ecclesial hierarchy. We are also beginning to know about the unholy business the Church does with education, health and even cemeteries within the framework of the Concordat between the Peruvian state and the Vatican. The very same priests who have spent years fighting us on the decriminalisation of abortion for rape cases, and who have said the worst things about us because they consider themselves to be the “defenders of life”, have allegedly covered for rapists of children and adolescents in their congregations and communities. This has helped people overcome their fear of denouncing the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy and double standards, and has limited the church’s ability to demand the government implement specific policies. For instance, the government has recently obeyed a court order to resume the distribution of emergency oral contraception despite pressures from Cardinal Cipriani.

    Given that our struggles for transitional justice have led us to seek justice and integral reparations for the victims of sexual violence during the internal armed conflict (1980-2000), we face not only Fujimorism but also APRA, a traditional party that ruled during a part of this period. They both seek to divide Peruvians between terrorists and non-terrorists and associate the left and human rights with terrorism. They never get tired of asserting that those who attack the military are terrorists - or ungrateful to say the least, for persecuting those who freed us from terrorism. If we strive for the legalisation of abortion we are abortionists, and if we defend human rights we are terrorists.

    2. How does DEMUS work to overcome these obstacles?
    We combine organisational and mobilisation strategies to strengthen the feminist and women’s diversity movement, public and political advocacy for legislation, public policies and access to justice measures, and strategic litigation. Among the latter were for instance the Manta y Vilca trial on rape during the internal armed conflict, which established that this was a crime against humanity; the case of forced sterilisations during the Fujimori administration; and other cases that have allowed us to move forward in terms of the recognition and guarantee of the human right to therapeutic abortion, among other sexual and reproductive rights.

    Ours is not just a lawyers’ struggle: we work in multidisciplinary teams and in alliances and within networks including other feminist, women’s, LGBTIQ and human rights NGOs, groups and platforms. Experience has taught us that it is not enough to obtain jurisprudence, standards, laws and public policies if there are no social movements and citizens defending them, that is, if there is no social base accompanying and empathising with the victims. Strategic litigation, legal defence and psycho-legal and therapeutic help are therefore always to be accompanied with mobilisation and campaigning.

    3. Is the Peruvian women’s movement integrated into regional or global networks, so as to face an adversary that is?
    There are indeed very important global and regional networks. In Latin America, the level of articulation reached by indigenous, peasant and environmental women human rights defenders is astonishing in contrast with the weakening of some feminist networks. New technologies have revolutionised communications, and we now have various alternative means to organise ourselves in networks.

    We must think about how to strengthen our thematic networks, for instance in the field of sexual and reproductive rights, in order to resist together. This is facilitated by a number of conceptual convergences, but complicated by the scarcity of resources reaching Latin America, competition around which affects alliances and articulations. Neoliberalism has also had an impact on inter-subjective relations: conflicts and rivalries arise due to scarce funding. It is impossible to understand the degree of difficulties we face without analysing the changes in and the new rules of international cooperation and funding mechanisms.
    On the other hand, we must not forget that Peru’s is a post-conflict society, with open wounds and an abundance of distrust, which has not yet learned to resolve differences without violence. We need to be aware of these limitations, so as not to reproduce what we criticise. But we are certainly still very strong: with much greater organisation and resources than we have, Catholics and evangelicals have not yet managed to create enough pressure in the streets and on public opinion to remove sex education from the school curriculum. Their only hope is now placed on authoritarian conservative forces in Congress.

    4. What progress or setbacks do you perceive in the struggle for women’s rights in Peru?
    Taking stock of the forty years of contemporary feminism in Peru, there has been net progress in terms of the legal-institutional framework. Advances have been the result of constant struggle and permanent dispute, and are neither ideal nor stable: they need to be continuously defended and perfected.

    For instance, in late 2015 a substantial amendment to Law No. 26260 (1993) on domestic violence was finally passed. The new legislation, Law No. 30394, is a law against gender-based violence. Shortly after, in July 2016, the Third National Plan against Gender Violence (2016-2021) was passed. In both cases there was a dispute over the diversity of the women to be protected. There was much resistance against the possibility that legislation would also protect lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. In fact, recognition of the variety of forms that gender violence can take was not as resisted as the extension and recognition of the objects of protection. The women’s movement succeeded in getting some previously unacknowledged forms of gender violence recognised as such, including gender-based violence in the context of social conflicts. We wanted the new law to protect women human rights defenders of land, the environment, and natural resources, that is, indigenous and peasant women who are currently criminalised and on whom conflicts have a differential impact on the basis of gender. This we achieved. We had also proposed that the violation of sexual and reproductive rights be recognised as gender violence. And while we achieved recognition of forced sterilisation, rape in the context of internal armed conflict, violence due to sexual orientation, and obstetric violence as forms of gender-based violence, such recognition was not expressed in the language of sexual and reproductive rights. In additional, sexual orientation-based violence was recognised but gender identity-based violence was not.

    Fifteen years after the First National Plan was launched, and more than twenty after the first law against then-called “domestic” or “intra-family” violence was passed, tension between women’s rights and family protection persists. Although Law No. 30364 has in many respects aligned legislation with the Belém do Pará Convention, violence based on gender identity discrimination has not yet been recognised. Public debate continues to focus on nature as a determinant of sexuality, reproduction and family.

    Why is it that feminists and LGBT people perceive “family protection” as contrary to our rights? First, because not all families are protected. Family rights of the LGBT population are not recognised. Secondly, because why protect the existing family – a traditional, hierarchical, violent family based on sexual division of labour and the exclusive recognition of heterosexual sexuality? A family organisation free of discrimination and gender-based violence should be promoted instead. In other words, measures should be taken to dismantle the patriarchal family, which functions as the very first place of normalisation and control, particularly for women and LGBT persons. The family has become a space in which physical, psychological and sexual violence remain unpunished: in fact, Peru has the second highest rate of denunciation of sexual offences against girls and adolescents in the region, and these are in many cases perpetrated by family members. Finally, a person’s (and in this case a woman’s) rights can never be subordinated, conditioned or reduced to a by-product of family welfare, in the same way as the rights of an actual person cannot be subordinated to the rights of being yet to be born.

    In sum, in historical perspective there has been progress in the recognition and guarantee of rights, but these have been the product of constant struggle. We face strong resistance, and if we had not permanently defended our conquests, we would certainly have seen them retreat long ago.

    5. In this context, how has DEMUS’ agenda changed since its beginnings in 1987?
    DEMUS is an organisation well known for its work for the right to a life free of gender-based violence. We specialise in prevention, care, denunciation, therapeutic and psycho-legal accompaniment, litigation, advocacy with legislative, policymaking and justice administration bodies, and campaigning and mobilisation on gender-based violence. For instance, we developed the “Not one more death” campaign, which placed femicide on the public agenda, and the “A man doesn't rape” campaign, which contributed to call attention on the problem of sexual violence, impunity and the culture of rape.

    In the beginning we had to dispute about the very concept of what was then called “intra-family violence”, which we designated as “violence against women” and today we call “gender-based violence”. We saw violence against women as a problem of power inequality, sexual discrimination and impunity, so we advocated for equality and access to justice. However, as years passed and the first laws and policies on the issue were passed, we realised that we were not obtaining the results we expected.

    The fight against violence against women had gained consensus as part of the state agenda and had occupied a space in the institutional structure of the state (commissions, ministries, etc.), and even ultraconservatives had begun to accept equal opportunities between men and women (which was enshrined in Law No. 28983 of 2007) all the while resisting the recognition of other sexual orientations and gender identities. So we began a conceptual revision and concluded that if we wanted to combat gender-based violence, our central strategic battle had to revolve around women’s autonomy and self-determination in the field of sexuality and reproduction, the recognition of and the provision of guarantees for sexual and reproductive rights understood as fundamental human rights, and access to justice in cases where these were violated. The perspective of sexual and reproductive rights came to enrich the equality and non-discrimination approach in addressing the problems of gender-based violence and impunity.

    Thus, although the defence of LGBT rights and the legalisation of abortion were already in DEMUS’ agenda, they have since become more central to it. And our strategies became richer in the process, because besides strategic litigation and therapeutic and psycho-legal accompaniment we started to focus as well on organisation and mobilisation, public advocacy and communication. We have used the whole toolbox in our search for justice and reparations for the victims of forced sterilisations, and also in our campaigns for emergency oral contraception and the legalisation of abortion (first of all for reasons of rape, foetal malformations incompatible with extra-uterine life, and unconsented artificial insemination and egg transfers, and eventually on the basis of women’s dignity and right to decide).

    Most recently, in our work to defend victims of sexual violence and impunity, we have learned from the indigenous and peasant women defenders of land and water that women human rights defenders are being differently affected by the extractivist economy due to their gender, and are being specifically criminalised by corporations such as the Yanacocha mining company and by the state itself. In their struggle to defend lakes and resist mining projects such as Conga, women are having a hard time, since gender-based violence is being used against them. In the actions of the police and the Armed Forces we are currently seeing a criminalisation of social protest, threats and violations of women’s rights echoing those that took place during armed conflict. In order to avoid the repetition of serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, we are using the new legislation, which now enables it, to denounce Yanacocha and make it clear that there is gender-based violence behind situations of harassment like that suffered by women human rights defenders such as Máxima Acuña.

    The other agenda that we increasingly adopted as central is the defence against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to achieve recognition of and guarantees for the right to gender identity and lesbians’ right to maternity. We choose the issues we fight for on the basis of several criteria. One of them is that of revolutionising whatever the system resists the most, so that if we win, we will not only have obtained a law, public policy or jurisprudence, but we will also have conquered people’s common sense. And what the system most resists today is transgender identity and the right of LGBT persons to love and family. The system condemns us to civil death, poverty, marginalisation, murder, harassment and rape.

    6. In Peru, there have recently been major mobilisations with the motto #NiUnaMenos. How was the issue placed on the public agenda in such a way that mobilisation turned out to be so massive? What roles did regional networks play in the process?

    The marches in Argentina, Mexico and other countries inspired many of us: we wanted to do something similarly massive in our own country. But mobilisation did not occur in Peru as a response to a regional call, or as a result of prior coordination within a regional network.

    A year prior to this mobilisation there was a high profile case in Peru, in which a woman was savagely attacked in a hotel in Ayacucho, dragged by the hair and almost raped and murdered. The episode had been recorded on video, and everyone followed the case in the media and expected the attacker to be convicted. The ruling came out a few months before the demonstration, and it acquitted the accused. It denied that an attempted rape and femicide had taken place, and it even ruled that the injuries on the victim had been minor. This generated a social phenomenon of indignation that spread throughout the national territory and in social media. Women who were in the ideological and social antipodes from one another agreed that something had to be done, and feminists started talking about a mobilisation meant to make it clear that “if they touch one of us, they are touching us all”. The #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) slogan was adopted out of the belief that the time had finally come and that this would be a mobilisation of a magnitude similar to those that had taken place in other countries.

    In Peru, the idea persists that if you do not obtain justice it is because you cannot prove what has happened to you. You only have your word and that is not enough for justice administrators. Now, if even in a case where there is a video like that, the aggressor is eventually absolved, what kind of security and justice is left for the rest of us? This created an unprecedented feeling of helplessness. Fear quickly turned into indignation, and this in turn into mobilisation. I was invited to join a Facebook chat a few hours after the video was made public. There were ten of us to start with, and a little while later we were over sixty, and the next day we were meeting at a comrade’s place. Within a few hours, the closed group formed in Facebook went from a few women testifying to the various forms of violence in their daily lives to 20 thousand, 40 thousand women reporting on their own stories of violence: at home, in the streets, at work, in school. Terrible stories, and everybody was telling them and keeping each other company.

    Thus, in Peru citizens went out into the streets to reject impunity and defend the right to justice. People began to wonder why violence against women persists despite all the laws and policies to combat it. The media started talking about patriarchy and machismo as its causes. There was some recognition of the importance of the feminist struggle, at least in that particular context. Much of the leadership and organisational work towards mobilisation was done by various organised and unorganised female citizens, leaders of feminist groups in neighbourhoods, universities, trade unions, NGOs. Women of a wide diversity of movements, colours, desires, education, professions and talents, in alliance and dialogue with the survivors whose emblematic cases united diverse sectors of society. Conservative sectors have still not managed to obtain similar success in defence of their agenda.

    7. Did the mobilisation have any positive effect in terms of public policy?
    The mobilisation resulted in some concrete measures, although these were too narrowly focused and involved little public investment. A Circle of Protection program was created, thereby extending attention to 24/7 in five out of over 200 Emergency Women’s Centres (EWC). Coverage of the emergency line Línea 600 was extended to all days of the week. This contributed to an increase in addressed complaints. Also, cases of femicide and rape were subsequently included into the rewards programme to stop offenders.

    Additionally, there were announcements regarding the expansion of temporary shelters, the provision of gender training to justice operators, and in particular to the National Police, and the creation of at least 50 new EWCs in various police stations across the country. The Public Ministry adapted its guidelines to Law No. 30364 and announced the creation of prosecution offices specialised in femicide. The Judiciary established a National Gender Commission.

    Nonetheless, femicidal violence persists as a savage daily occurrence; there is in fact a patriarchal and male chauvinist counteroffensive underway. They continue to kill us and rape us, and the femicide and rape culture keeps blaming us for it. And the measures adopted by the state in defence of the gender approach and gender equality fall short: they are basically reactions and responses to public pressure. We women do the reporting and monitoring job that the state should be doing. The state and the government always give in when it comes to the sexual and reproductive rights of women and LGBTIQ people. Which makes it clear that unless it becomes feminist, public policy will yield no results. If public policy priorities do not change, women will continue to die.

    The most important changes have occurred in the realms of common sense. #NiUnaMenos has shown that there is widespread rejection of violence against women, and that women have become empowered to talk about sexual violence in the same way that we first learned to talk about partner and domestic violence. There is no longer shame in having been a victim: it is clear that the other party is the one at fault. Women now know that there are things that are not right, and that if they happen to them it is not their fault, or God’s will, or the work of nature: it is a violation of rights and a matter of justice, and those responsible have to be punished.

    Civic space in Peru is rated as ‘obstructed’ in the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with DEMUS through their website, visit their Facebook page, or follow ‪@DEMUS_f‬ and ‪@MYCfeminista‬ on Twitter.‬‬‬‬

    Image ©Peru21

     

  • CIVICUS condemns violence, encourages peaceful dialogue in Peru

    12 June 2009. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation condemns the violence stemming from protest in Peru and supports the resumption of peaceful dialogue and cooperation between the Government of Peru and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP).

    According to reports, approximately 40 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when Peruvian police and military opened fire on unarmed protestors on 5 June 2009.

    The indigenous protesters oppose plans by the Peruvian government to further open parts of the Amazon region for development and the extraction of oil, minerals, timber, and other natural resources by multinational corporations. They maintain that multinational corporations are gaining access to ancestral territories without consultation from indigenous peoples. Protests have resulted in road blockades and the closure of areas in the Amazon region.

    Talks among indigenous communities represented by AIDESEP and the Peruvian government broke down on 5 June 2009. Following vows of insurgency by protesters, the Peruvian military joined state police in a campaign of forced removals. Although threats of insurgency have since been rescinded, armed intervention continues, and the 60 day state of emergency that has been in effect since 8 May 2009 remains.

    The implementation of newly promulgated laws passed last year give President Garcia new powers to implement free-trade agreements, which includes new trade pacts with the United States and Canada. Such pacts threaten the preservation of rural and native communities' autonomy and use of land as affirmed by Article 89 of the Constitution of the Republic of Peru. Moreover, the laws did not follow mandatory consultation with the affected communities under Article 6 of the ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries in breach of Peru's obligations under international law.

    Although, the Congress has indefinitely suspended two of the decrees in response to recommendations of the Special Commission of the Congress, Constitutional Commission of the Congress and the Office of the Ombudsman, it has not repealed them to eliminate a significant cause of the conflict.

    CIVICUS is deeply concerned over the escalation of violence and increased use of armed intervention by the Peruvian government and recommends that:

    (i) an independent commission of inquiry comprising international experts be set up to investigate the violence and the events preceding it; and

    (ii) an invitation be extended to the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People to carry out an investigation.

    CIVICUS supports the rights of all peoples of Peru to peacefully organise, protest and petition the government, and encourages resumption of peaceful talks and good-faith dialogue between the indigenous peoples of Peru and the government.

     

  • CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 28th UPR session (November 2017). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Countries examined: Benin, Gabon, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Zambia.

     

  • Desde Perú a Bélgica, juntos somos más Fuertes

    English 

    Por Jorge Vallejo, de la Red Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia, Peru, y miembro de la delegación de CIVICUS al foro de asociación de la CE 2018.

    partnershipforum4Para mí fue una enorme satisfacción recibir la confirmación de haber sido seleccionado al Partnership Forum 2018 de la Unión Europea gracias a la convocatoria que lanzó CIVICUS. Recuerdo que la noche en que preparaba mi postulación era el día previo al inicio en Lima de la semana de la Cumbre de las Américas en la cual mi organización, la Red Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia, tuvo participación. Ser notificado semanas después de que estaba invitado también al Partnership de la Unión Europea fue una gran alegría. Así, este año, a ambos lados del charco, tuve la oportunidad de seguir buscando alianzas estratégicas entre actores para el fortalecimiento de nuestras democracias y el respeto de las libertades, generando más ciudadanía para la vida comunitaria. Eso fue lo que me motivó a presentarme, y el foro me ha brindado una perspectiva más global en los temas y con más herramientas en dicho trabajo, escuchando valiosas experiencias de los 5 continentes.

    Entre nuevos aprendizajes y nuevos retos

    Ahí estábamos con Lusanda (Sudáfrica), Pek (Bután), Ekaterina (desde Kuwait) y Cathryn del equipo CIVICUS ¡los viajeros ya en Bruselas! Punto resaltante en la reunión ha sido la Agenda 2030 y el hacer que los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible lleguen a un aterrizaje local que permita efectivamente “no dejar a nadie atrás”, remarcando la relevancia de las alianzas para alcanzar objetivos (ODS 17). Hay muchos casos por mencionar, pero quisiera en este espacio hablar de la experiencia de Senegal y sus presupuestos participativos, teniendo una “certificación ciudadana” como evaluación para la acreditación de los actores locales como buenos administradores de recursos, algo rescatable y replicable en camino a la transparencia (Aliou Sow, Presidente de la Comisión del Alto Consejo de las Autoridades locales y regionales de Senegal).

     

  • PERÚ: ‘La corriente ultraconservadora está afectando la vida democrática y los derechos fundamentales’

    Eliana CanoEn el marco de nuestro informe temático 2019, que será publicado en octubre, estamos entrevistando a activistas, líderes y expertos de la sociedad civil acerca de su experiencia frente al avance de los grupos anti-derechos y sus estrategias para fortalecer las narrativas progresistas y la capacidad de respuesta de la sociedad civil. En esta oportunidad, CIVICUS conversa conEliana Cano, fundadora de Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir – Perú (CDD-Perú), un movimiento de personas católicas y feministas, comprometidascon la búsqueda de justicia social y elcambio de los patrones culturales que limitan la autonomía de las mujeres y sus derechos sexuales y reproductivos. Recientemente, CDD-Perú fue demandada civilmente por el Centro Jurídico Tomás Moro, que busca quitarle la personería jurídica con el argumento de que, en el marco del concordato entre el Vaticano y Perú, no debería utilizar la designación de “católicas”.

    CDD-Perú ha sido demandada civilmente para que se le retire la personalidad jurídica y se le impida definirse como ‘católica’. ¿Quiénes las están demandando, por qué se han ensañado con ustedes, y qué pretenden lograr?

    Hace aproximadamente un mes y medio fuimos notificadas de que el Centro Jurídico Santo Tomás Moro, que se autodesigna representante de la Iglesia Católica, nos había iniciado una demanda. Según los abogados que nos están asesorando, este grupo empezó a explorar todo el quehacer de nuestra organización hace aproximadamente un año. Eligieron la vía civil para demandarnos porque quieren hacer de esto un proceso largo, tedioso, cansado, de apelación permanente. Es un proceso que podría llevar en promedio entre tres o cuatro años. La estrategia de fondo es agotarnos en el proceso.

    Quieren que nosotros, como organización, dejemos de existir en la Superintendencia Nacional de los Registros Públicos, es decir, que perdamos nuestra personería jurídica y no podamos seguir operando en el Perú. Para ello aducen que, por llamarnos como nos llamamos, estamos faltando el respeto a la Iglesia Católica y a la feligresía; dicen que, en el marco del concordato entre el Vaticano y el Estado peruano, que reconoce el rol de la Iglesia Católica, estaríamos usando de mala fe el término ‘católicas’, que representa a una institución y a una identidad histórica. No aceptan la interpretación que hacemos de los textos bíblicos desde la teología feminista para cuestionar el dogma, la conciencia impuesta, el control que buscan hacer de la gente en nombre de Dios. Es importante señalar que nuestra organización no está registrada en la Iglesia Católica como grupo de fieles, y por lo tanto no está sujeta al mandato interno de la Iglesia.

    Ustedes existen desde hace unos cuantos años. ¿Es la primera vez que enfrentan una reacción semejante?

    Efectivamente, el proyecto Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir es bastante antiguo en América Latina. Comenzó en Uruguay y luego se extendió a Estados Unidos, y de allí pasó a México y a otros países de América Latina. En Perú la organización tiene existencia jurídica desde el año 2009. Nos organizamos porque nos identificamos como feministas con identidad católica, nos sentimos mujeres católicas de fe, pero tenemos una mirada crítica frente al dogma, al pensamiento estático y cerrado, sobre todo cuando se debaten temas relacionados con los derechos sexuales y reproductivos, donde el cuerpo y la sexualidad son el terreno donde se libran luchas políticas. En Perú siempre ha habido una voz pública muy homogénea alrededor de los Evangelios y el derecho a mandar sobre los cuerpos y las vidas de las mujeres, y nosotras, al ponerla en duda desde nuestra identidad católica, recibimos una respuesta bastante agresiva de la jerarquía de la Iglesia Católica local y grupos vinculados a esta.

    El primer ataque público fue por el debate en torno al protocolo por el aborto terapéutico, es decir, justificado por razones médicas, cuando hay riesgos graves para la salud o la vida de la mujer. Fue un ataque teñido por los mismos recursos que ellos siempre utilizan, fundados en la difamación, el descrédito y la mentira. Pero se trató básicamente de ataques verbales y escritos a través de las redes sociales.

    Estos grupos conservadores se manejan bien en las redes sociales, permanentemente nos atacan públicamente por cada cosa que se sale del sitio del dogma, del discurso homogéneo. Sin embargo, es la primera vez que enfrentamos una demanda legal; no esperábamos un ataque tan directo y de semejante magnitud. Tal vez deberíamos haberlo previsto, ya que en América Latina, y en el Perú específicamente, la corriente ultraconservadora ha penetrado profundamente en la estructura política del país y está afectando la vida democrática.

    Daría la impresión de que estos grupos ultraconservadores son ahora más grandes y están más envalentonados que en el pasado. ¿A qué se debe?

    Considero que una mirada en el tiempo permite ver cómo desde hace varias décadas se decidió desarrollar una respuesta global y regional para desalentar y debilitar el discurso de la Teología de la Liberación, cuyo énfasis estuvo principalmente en la preocupación por la pobreza. Con su discurso cuestionador dentro de la Iglesia que se extendía a otros ámbitos de la vida, la Teología de la Liberación afectó o incomodó mucho a la parte más dura y conservadora de la Iglesia. La reacción contraria ha sido de largo aliento. Ha logrado avances, al punto que hoy se hace visible una red altamente orgánica, con sedes de encuentro en los diferentes países de América Latina, publicaciones, conferencias y recursos económicos considerables. Su presencia comenzó a hacerse sentir con fuerza en el año 2005, con el II Congreso Internacional Pro-Vida organizado por el Centro de Promoción Familiar y de Regulación de la Natalidad (Ceprofarena) en la capital del Perú. Este congreso produjo un documento conocido como la Declaración de Lima, expresión de la concertación entre los grupos conservadores.

    Ceprofarena existe desde comienzos de los años ochenta; está estrechamente vinculado con Human Life international, una poderosa organización internacional conservadora, y cuenta entre sus miembros a reconocidos médicos y altos funcionarios del Estado, incluidos ex ministros de Salud. La organización se mueve dentro de numerosas organizaciones médicas y de salud, públicas y privadas. Estos actores ponen el discurso “científico” conservador al servicio de atropellos tales como la denegación de la anticoncepción oral de emergencia, tema en el cual le ganaron la pulseada al Ministerio de Salud: le hicieron una demanda, llevaron ante los tribunales el derecho a informarse y decidir de miles de mujeres, y lograron la prohibición de su distribución en todos servicios de salud a nivel nacional. Ahora están en campaña para deshabilitar el protocolo de aborto terapéutico que se logró establecer en el quinquenio 2011-2016.

    El entramado de organizaciones conservadoras en Perú se completa con la Oficina para Latinoamérica del Population Research Institute , con sede en Lima; la sede peruana de la Alianza Latinoamericana para la Familia, que promueve formatos familiares clásicos y produce y difunde libros escolares; y por supuesto organizaciones más antiguas como el Opus Dei, que hace labores de desarrollo y apoyo local y está muy inserto en espacios educativos, además de dentro de la burocracia de la Iglesia; y el Sodalicio de la Vida Cristiana, una organización de laicos.

    Estos grupos tienen mucho dinero del empresariado conservador y se han apropiado tanto de estrategias como de discursos efectivos. Esta demanda jurídica es una estrategia práctica que denota cambios en su forma de organizarse. Ya no hablan el lenguaje divino y clerical porque saben que cada vez atrae menos; en cambio se han apropiado del discurso de la democracia y los derechos humanos.

    ¿Están ustedes pensando nuevas estrategias para enfrentar este desafío?

    En este escenario nos vemos en la necesidad de fortalecer nuestras estrategias de comunicación. También tenemos que reforzar la parte económica ya que no contamos con financiación para enfrentar una demanda legal de esta magnitud. Los donantes internacionales no necesariamente contemplan en sus apoyos un rubro para planes de defensa institucional. Pero en los tiempos actuales se trata de un aspecto muy necesario para las organizaciones defensoras de los derechos humanos. En esta situación específica, felizmente, el Instituto de Defensa Legal, que ya había asumido casos parecidos en relación con periodistas, se interesó y decidió patrocinar el caso como parte de su apuesta institucional. Ellos consideran que esto es una “pelea ideológica” y que el cuestionamiento del nombre es un “pretexto” para desaparecernos como actores con influencia. El suyo es un gesto que agradecemos infinitamente.

    En lo que se refiere al discurso, sin embargo, no deberíamos movernos de nuestras posiciones, sino más bien poner en evidencia que la apropiación del discurso de los derechos humanos y la democracia por parte de los grupos ultraconservadores es tan superficial como poco respetuosa de los principios democráticos. Tal como acaba de suceder con la campaña “Con mis hijos no te metas”, centrada en la oposición a la educación sobre la igualdad de género y el respeto por las identidades sexuales, su discurso tiende a volverse muy agresivo cada vez que se sienten acorralados. Se les percibe como desesperados, porque en el fondo no hacen sino reaccionar frente a conquistas en materia de derechos.

    La situación de hecho ha progresado, porque no somos solamente nosotras, sino que se encuentran en movimiento nuevas generaciones y mucha gente respetuosa de la libertad, de la diversidad, de la garantía de derechos, que también está ganando espacios. No solamente son las tres o cuatro organizaciones feministas fundadoras que se mueven en la ciudad de Lima; se evidencian voces, rostros y jóvenes organizados desde las universidades, desde las comunidades, desde otras regiones del Perú que con un pensamiento crítico no aceptan los dogmas, incluso reaccionan con tono sarcástico ante ese tipo de discursos y posiciones.

    Desde ya que hay una juventud católica que es convocada por el Papa y ha decidido quedarse en ese perímetro ultraconservador, pero también hay una movilización social juvenil en torno de muchos temas, y con ellos muchas cuestiones de la agenda de derechos sexuales y reproductivos van permeando el debate público. Creo que esto está desesperando a los grupos ultraconservadores, y entonces reaccionan de manera feroz, con cólera, frustración, y hasta me atrevería a decir que odio. Es decir, reaccionan con actitudes que no se parecen nada a la misericordia, la bondad, la humildad, la comprensión y el no juzgamiento.

    ¿Por qué el hecho de que se definan como ‘católicas y feministas’ genera este tipo de rechazos?

    Nosotras somos mujeres de fe y la religión es parte de nuestra identidad. Hemos sido criadas como católicas, y en ese marco el mensaje que se nos inculcó fue de obediencia, prohibición y opresión. Conforme hemos crecido, nos rebelamos ante este y otros aspectos del control de la vida y la dimensión sexual-afectiva. Nos identificamos como católicas desde una interpretación renovada y no renunciamos a nuestra fe. Somos conscientes de que el catolicismo no es solamente una cuestión de fe, sino que también opera o se materializa en una institución, y como tal tiene prácticas tanto positivas como negativas que tienen impacto en la vida de la gente, y específicamente sobre su feligresía.

    Al mismo tiempo, todas nosotras venimos de trayectorias en organizaciones con identidad feminista. Somos feministas, cuestionamos el patriarcado como sistema de relaciones de poder asimétricas, pero no renunciamos a nuestra fe. Siempre nos hacemos estas preguntas: ¿por qué nuestra religión tendría que tener una sola voz, uniforme e incuestionable? ¿Por qué obedecer en silencio y validar el sacrificio y el sufrimiento en nuestras vidas y cuerpos? Encontramos un asidero en la teología feminista, que pasa por una deconstrucción y una reconstrucción del Evangelio. Estas herramientas conceptuales y políticas fortalecen nuestra convicción y nuestra lucha pública por los derechos sexuales y reproductivos.

    Desde la oficialidad se nos dice “ustedes no son católicas, quiénes son ustedes para hablar en nombre del catolicismo”, a lo que nosotras respondemos: “qué te hace a ti católico, qué te permite atropellar derechos en nombre de Dios”. Nosotras hemos hecho una reapropiación del lenguaje del evangelio que se centra en el derecho de las personas a deliberar en conciencia, a discernir y a decidir, y esto les incomoda. Yo soy católica, bautizada y apuesto por una teología feminista. No puedes cuestionar mi fe, así como yo tampoco puedo cuestionar la tuya. Es una lucha muy fuerte, porque puede ser fácil derrumbarse frente a una masa mayoritaria que te dice que tú no eres uno de ellos. Desde el principio supimos que enfrentaríamos la descalificación, la mentira y la difamación; sin embargo, no pensamos que los ataques llegarían a ser tan violentos como los que experimentamos actualmente en las redes sociales y a través de esta demanda.

    Como la experiencia de fe no nos la pueden arrancar, lo que intentan es arrancarnos la personería jurídica, hacernos desaparecer. Representamos un peligro porque no somos pocas, cada vez somos más quienes nos conocen y se sienten identificadas/os. Representamos la posición de muchas personas que no necesariamente tienen la oportunidad de articular públicamente este pensamiento, pero que lo sienten y lo viven. Hay una feligresía amplia y diversa que no piensa como la jerarquía y considera que la respuesta ultraconservadora en materia de políticas públicas es digna de la época de la Inquisición. Según las encuestas, la mayoría de los católicos disiente de la jerarquía en muchas cuestiones importantes, tales como la homosexualidad, que no consideran que sea una enfermedad o un castigo divino, o el matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo. Decidir un aborto en circunstancias específicas de vida es una decisión altamente ética y responsable, no te hace una mala mujer, ni menos católica ni mala madre. Utilizar anticonceptivos para regular la maternidad y la paternidad o disfrutar una relación sexual sin procrear no está prohibido en los evangelios. El mal llamado estado de “virginidad” va perdiendo credibilidad divina y libera a las mujeres de sentimientos de culpa incluso en sociedades como las de América Latina, donde los gobiernos de turno y la Iglesia Católica estuvieron siempre de la mano para regular la vida de la gente. Es más, actualmente siguen utilizándose mutuamente cuando uno de ellos pierde credibilidad.

    ¿De qué maneras están promoviendo la distinción entre la privada y política pública?

    La nuestra es también una lucha por un Estado laico, un Estado que se encuentre separado de las iglesias. Esto es muy difícil de conseguir en la práctica, ya que la Iglesia Católica y el Estado peruano mantienen fuertes vínculos institucionales. Sin embargo, más allá de conseguir legal y constitucionalmente la separación entre la Iglesia y el Estado, hay otra lucha que estamos dando en el terreno de los imaginarios colectivos y de las actitudes. Mucha gente (políticos, funcionarios, servidores públicos) llegan a la esfera pública sin una reflexión sobre la importancia de separar la creencia religiosa de la función pública. En consecuencia, muchos legisladores y funcionarios públicos toman decisiones sobre la base de sus creencias religiosas. Es usual encontrar en los edificios de los Ministerios crucifijos, capillas e imágenes de carácter religioso. En el día a día la religión nos rodea y nos limita, no existen fronteras claras entre la práctica religiosa y la función pública.

    Los grupos ultraconservadores se afirman sobre este terreno y buscan expandir aún más los dictados de una religión que se presenta como homogénea, con la intención de obligar a toda la ciudadanía a vivir según sus propias creencias y mandatos. El problema no es la religión; la dificultad radica en el uso político que se hace de ésta en la esfera político–pública, donde el deber es garantizar los derechos humanos.

    El espacio cívico en Perú es clasificado como ‘obstruido’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir-Perú a través de supágina web o su perfil deFacebook, o siga a@CDDperu en Twitter

     

     

     

  • PERU: ‘The ultra-conservative tide is affecting democratic life and fundamental rights’

    Eliana CanoAs part of our 2019 thematic report, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their experiences of backlash from anti-rights groups and their strategies to strengthen progressive narratives and civil society responses. CIVICUS speaks toEliana Cano, founder of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir – Peru (Catholics for the Right to Decide – CDD-Peru), a Catholic and feminist movement committed to the pursuit of social justice and the change of cultural patterns that limit women's autonomy and their sexual and reproductive rights. CCD-Peru has recently been sued by the Tomás Moro Legal Centre, which wants to strip it of its legal status on the basis that, within the framework of an agreement between the Vatican State and Peru, it should not be using the term ‘Catholics’.

    CDD-Peru is being sued to have its legal personality withdrawn and prevented from calling itself 'Catholic'. Who is suing you, what do they have against you, and what are they trying to achieve?

    About a month and a half ago we were notified that the Santo Tomás Moro Legal Centre, which is a self-appointed representative of the Catholic Church, had brought a lawsuit against us. According to the lawyers who are advising us, this group began to look into the work done by our organisation about a year ago. They decided to sue us in the civil courts because they want to make this a long, tedious, tiring process, one of permanent appeal. The whole thing can take up to three or four years. Basically, their strategy is to drain us of energy in the process.

    They want us to cease to exist as a registered organisation, recognised by the National Superintendency of Public Registries. In other words, they want us to lose our legal status and not be able to continue operating in Peru. They argue that, by calling ourselves what we do, we are disrespecting the Catholic Church and its parishioners. They say that, in light of the existing agreement between the Vatican State and Peru – which recognises the role of the Catholic Church – we are using the term 'Catholic', which represents an institution and a historical identity, in bad faith. They do not accept the interpretation we make of biblical texts on the basis of feminist theology in order to question dogma, imposed conscience and control of people in the name of God. It is important to note that our organisation is not registered with the Catholic Church as a faith group, and therefore is not subject to the internal mandate of the Church.

    You have been around for a few years. Is this the first time you have faced such reaction?

    Indeed, the project of Catholics for the Right to Decide is quite old in Latin America. It began in Uruguay and then spread to the USA, and from there it passed on to Mexico and other countries of Latin America. In Peru the organisation has had a legal existence since 2009. We organised ourselves because we identify as feminists with a Catholic identity. We see ourselves as Catholic women of faith, but we have a critical view of dogma, of static and closed thought, especially where issues related to sexual and reproductive rights are concerned, as body and sexuality are a terrain where political battles are fought. In Peru there has always been a very homogenous public voice around the Gospels and the right to command over the bodies and lives of women, and we, by questioning this from the position of our Catholic identity, have received a rather aggressive response by the hierarchy of the local Catholic Church and groups linked to it.

    The first public attack happened on the occasion of the debate around the definition of a protocol for therapeutic abortion: abortion that is justified for medical reasons, when there are serious risks to the woman’s health or life. It was an attack tinged with the same resources these groups always use, based on defamation, vilification and lies. But in this case attacks basically took the form of verbal and written attacks on social media.

    Conservative groups know how to manage social media and constantly attack us publicly for everything we do that deviates from dogma or homogeneous discourse. However, this is the first time we have faced a lawsuit, and we were not expecting an attack so direct and of such magnitude. Maybe we should have foreseen it, since in Latin America, and in Peru specifically, ultra-conservative groups have penetrated deeply into the political structure of the country and are affecting democratic life.

    It would seem that these ultra-conservative groups are now larger and more emboldened than they used to be. Why is that?

    When looking back you realise that for several decades a global and regional response has developed to discourage and weaken the liberation theology discourse, which put the emphasis mostly on poverty. With a questioning discourse within the Church that extended to other areas of life, liberation theology made the most hardcore conservative elements of the Church very uncomfortable. The reaction against it has been sustained. It has made a lot of progress, to the point that today a highly organic network has become visible, which has bases in various Latin American countries and its own publications, conferences and considerable economic resources. Its presence began to make itself felt strongly in 2005, when the Center for Family Promotion and Regulation of Birth (Ceprofarena) organised the Second International Pro-Life Congress in the capital, Lima. This congress produced a document known as the Lima Declaration, an expression of the agreement reached by conservative groups.

    Ceprofarena has existed since the early eighties. It maintains close links to Human Life International, a powerful international conservative organisation, and among its members are renowned physicians and senior state officials, including former health ministers. The organisation acts within numerous medical and health organisations, both public and private. These actors put conservative ‘scientific’ discourse at the service of abuses such as the denial of emergency oral contraception, an issue on which they successfully took on the Ministry of Health. They sued the Ministry, bringing to court the right to information and choice of thousands of women, and succeeded in achieving the prohibition of the distribution of emergency contraception by all health services nationwide. Now they are campaigning to dismantle the therapeutic abortion protocol established during the 2011 to2016 period.

    The network of conservative organisations in Peru also includes the Office for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, based in Lima; the Peruvian headquarters of the Latin American Alliance for the Family, which promotes classic family formats and produces and disseminates school books; of course older organisations such as Opus Dei, which does local development and support work and is deeply embedded in educational spaces, as well as within the bureaucracy of the Church; and the Sodalicio de la Vida Cristiana, an organisation of lay people.

    These groups have a lot of money that comes from the conservative business sector and have appropriated effective strategies and discourses. This lawsuit is a practical strategy that denotes a change in their way of organising. They no longer speak the language of the divine and the clerical because they know that it attracts fewer and fewer people; instead they have appropriated the discourse of democracy and human rights.

    Are you thinking of new strategies to face this growing challenge?

    In the present scenario we view ourselves as in need of strengthening our communication strategies. We also need to strengthen our resourcing, since we do not have funds to face a lawsuit of this magnitude. International funders do not necessarily provide support that can be used to develop institutional defence plans. But at present, this is a profound need of human rights organisations. In our case, fortunately the Legal Defence Institute, which had already taken on similar cases affecting journalists, became interested and decided to sponsor the case as part of its institutional priorities. They consider that this is an "ideological fight" and that questioning our name is a "pretext" to make us disappear as influential actors. Theirs has been a gesture that we are infinitely thankful for.

    As far as discourse is concerned, however, we should not move from our positions, but rather show that the appropriation of the discourse of human rights and democracy by ultra-conservative groups is as superficial as disrespectful of democratic principles. As happened recently with the ‘Do not mess with my children’ campaign – against education about gender equality and respect for sexual identities – their discourse tends to become very aggressive every time they feel cornered. They seem to be desperate, because deep down they do nothing but react in the face of newly acquired rights.

    And the situation has indeed progressed, because this is not just us – new generations are mobilised and lots of people who are respectful of freedom and diversity and who uphold guarantees for rights are gaining ground. It is not just three or four old-time feminist organisations that are active in Lima; there are also the voices and faces of young people organised in universities, people in communities in various regions of Peru who think critically, do not accept dogmas, even react in a sarcastic tone to that type of discourse and perspective.

    Of course there is always a Catholic youth following that responds to the Pope and has decided to stay within the ultra-conservative field, but there is also youth social mobilisation around many issues, and with their help many aspects of the sexual and reproductive rights agenda are permeating the public debate. I think this is causing ultra-conservative groups to despair, and that is why they are reacting with such anger, frustration and, I would even dare say, hate. That is, they react with attitudes that are nowhere close to mercy, kindness, humility, understanding and non-judgement.

    Why does the fact that you define yourselves as both Catholics and feminists cause this type of reaction?

    We are women of faith and religion is part of our identity. We have been raised Catholic, and in that context the message that was instilled in us was one of obedience, prohibition and oppression. As we grew up, we rebelled against this and other aspects related to the control of our lives and their sexual dimension. We identify ourselves as Catholic on the basis of a renewed interpretation, but we do not renounce our faith. We are aware that Catholicism is not only a matter of faith, but it also operates within or materialises in an institution, and as such it includes both positive and negative practices that have an impact on the lives of many people, and specifically on its members.

    At the same time, we all come from organisations with a feminist identity. We are feminists and we question patriarchy as a system of asymmetric power relations, but we do not renounce our faith. We always ask ourselves these questions: why should our religion have to have one single voice, uniform and unquestionable? Why obey in silence and validate sacrifice and suffering in our own lives and bodies? We find a foothold in feminist theology, which offers a deconstruction and reconstruction of the Gospel. These conceptual and political tools strengthen our conviction and our public struggle for sexual and reproductive rights.

    High Church officials tell us: ‘you are not Catholic, who are you to speak in the name of Catholicism?’ We respond: ‘what makes you a Catholic, what allows you to trample rights in the name of God?’ We have claimed ownership of the language of the Gospel that focuses on the right of people to deliberate in conscience, to discern and to decide, and this bothers them. I am a Catholic, I was baptised and I am guided by feminist theology. You cannot question my faith, just as I cannot question yours. This is a very hard fight, because it is easy to fall in the face of a mass telling you that you are not one of them. From the beginning we knew that we would face disqualification, defamation and lies; we did not, however, think that the attacks would become as violent as those we are currently experiencing on social media, as well as in the form of a lawsuit.

    Given that the experience of faith cannot be taken away from us, what they are trying to do is take away our legal status, make us disappear. We represent a danger because we are not just a few. In fact, more and more people are increasingly getting to know us and identify with us. We represent the position of many people who do not necessarily have the opportunity to articulate this strand of thought publicly, but who feel it and live by it. There is a wide and diverse congregation that does not think the same way as the Church hierarchy and considers that the ultra-conservative response to public policy is more suitable to Inquisition times than today. According to polls, most Catholics disagree with the Church hierarchy on many important issues, such as homosexuality, which they do not consider to be an illness or a divine punishment, or same-sex marriage. Choosing an abortion in specific life circumstances is a highly ethical and responsible decision, and it does not make you a bad woman, a lesser Catholic, or a bad mother. Using contraceptives to regulate motherhood and fatherhood or enjoying a sexual relationship without procreating is not prohibited by the Gospels. The state of virginity is losing its divine quality and this is freeing women from feelings of guilt, even in societies such as Latin America’s, where governments and the Catholic Church have always worked in concert to regulate people’s lives. Still today they support one another every time one of them loses credibility.

    How else are you trying to encourage a distinction between private faith and public policy?

    Ours is also a struggle for a secular state, a state that is separated from all churches. This is very difficult to achieve in practice, since the Catholic Church and the Peruvian state maintain strong institutional ties. However, short of achieving constitutional and legal separation between Church and state, there is another fight to be had in the sphere of collective attitudes. Many people – politicians, public officials, civil servants – reach the public sphere without giving a thought to the importance of separating religious beliefs from public function. As a result, many lawmakers and public officials make decisions based on their religious beliefs. It is very common to find crucifixes, chapels and religious images in ministry buildings. In our everyday lives religion surrounds us and limits us; there are no clear boundaries between religious practice and public functions.

    Ultra-conservative groups set themselves on this ground and seek to further expand the dictates of a religion that presents itself as homogeneous, with the intention of forcing all citizens to live according to their own beliefs and mandates. The problem is not religion in itself; the difficulty lies with the political use of religion within the political-public sphere, where there is a duty to guarantee human rights.

     

    Civic space in Peru is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

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