Why have over 900 women and girls gone missing in Peru since coronavirus lockdowns began?

Why have over 900 women and girls gone missing in Peru since coronavirus lockdowns began?

By Rachael Wong

With more than 400,000 coronavirus cases and 18,816 deaths, Peru is the third-hardest hit country in Latin America behind Brazil and Mexico. And the pandemic has had particularly alarming consequences for the country’s women.

According to authorities, more than 900 women and girls have gone missing and are feared dead in Peru since coronavirus lockdowns began.

The South American nation has long had a horrific problem with domestic violence, other violence against women, as well as human trafficking and forced prostitution. This is exacerbated by the fact that police often fail to take domestic violence seriously, refusing to investigate cases, making fun of victims, or claiming that the missing have left their homes willingly.

However, Eliana Revollar, who leads the women's rights office of the National Ombudsman's office, says the situation has worsened under the confinement and stressors resulting from COVID-19. Before COVID-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every single day. Since the lockdown, the number has escalated to eight per day. The situation is compounded by the lack of a national missing persons registry, which makes it difficult for authorities to keep track of the crisis.

COVID-19 has highlighted in a dramatic way the desperate need for a cultural shift in terms of the treatment of women and girls in Peru. The same can be said for other countries where domestic violence has soared during the pandemic – including Australia – referred to by the United Nations as “a shadow pandemic” of violence against women.

Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia