Peru election pits 2 candidates opposed by women’s rights, LGBT+ activists

By Fernando Gimeno

Lima, Jun 3 (EFE).- Women’s rights and LGBT+ activists see little choice in Peru’s June 6 presidential runoff, which will pit two socially conservative candidates that oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and gender equality-based education.

Leftist rural schoolteacher and trade unionist Pedro Castillo and right-wing former first lady and ex-lawmaker Keiko Fujimori have radically different political and economic visions for Peru over the next five years.

But activists in the spheres of women’s and LGBT+ rights see no option on the social front in one of the region’s most conservative nations, where abortion is outlawed except when the woman’s life is in danger, same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in any form and no gender-identity law is on the books.

Peru also is one of the most violent countries for women, with an average of one woman or girl having gone missing every hour in 2020, most of them minors.

“The situation is critical” for many women and members of the LGBT+ community because neither candidate offers hope for change, the executive director of the feminist non-governmental organization Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Promsex), Susana Chavez, told Efe.

“We can’t keep talking about democracy if it’s not inclusive and doesn’t end discrimination. These aren’t ‘special’ rights; it’s about applying the same legal standards to all people,” said Chavez, who was included this year on the centrist and socially liberal Purple Party’s list of congressional candidates.

She said this election jeopardizes the advances made in recent years to promote equality by addressing gender-based violence and the treatment of victims.

Chavez added that she is pessimistic about the decriminalization of abortion (punishable in Peru by between three and five years in prison) in the near future, even in cases of rape or birth defects. Promsex recently tried to end penalties for abortions in those situations via the legislative process, but that bill was shelved by Congress in 2018.

Activists also see little hope in the area of marriage equality.

Gabriela Zavaleta, president of Mas Igualdad (More Equality), the organization behind Peru’s “Si Acepto” (Yes, I Do) same-sex marriage campaign, told Efe that both candidates have indicated rejection of any recognition of LGBT+ rights.

“In the case of Fujimori, there are signs that neither she nor her party are allies of our cause,” Zavaleta said, recalling that the ex-first lady and Popular Force chairwoman has ties to evangelical churches and has always used her power in Congress to obstruct bills on issues such as LGBT+ civil unions.

Castillo, for his part, has expressed sympathy with the Lima-based conservative social movement “Con mis hijos no te metas” (Don’t Mess with My Kids), the most prominent opponent of gender-focused public school initiatives, and “it’s worrying that he’s stated that he’s ‘pro-family and pro-life,'” the activist said.

Zavaleta said, however, that Castillo inspires more hope in her because members of the leftist New Peru party, which openly champions same-sex marriage rights, are part of his team.

Even so, she sees little possibility for further gains due to the conservative composition of Peru’s Congress and the “strong taboo against same-sex couples” in the Andean nation.

Both Zavaleta and Chavez are pinning their hopes on the justice system, with the former noting that lower courts have begun to recognize some same-sex marriages that were contracted abroad.

“What this Congress won’t be able to impede are international recommendations and our going before national and international tribunals,” Chavez said. “There will at least be a struggle on our part.” EFE


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