Hundreds of Peru women, girls gone missing during virus lockdown

At least 1,200 disappearances reported across Latin American country since the start of coronavirus pandemic in March.

    Passengers practice social distancing as they stand in line before entering the airport in Lima, Peru [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]
    Passengers practice social distancing as they stand in line before entering the airport in Lima, Peru [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

    Hundreds of women and girls have gone missing and are feared dead in Peru since a lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

    From March 16 through June 30, a total of 915 people - 606 girls and 309 women - were reported missing, according to authorities.

    Last week, Peru's women's ministry said 1,200 women and girls had been reported missing during the pandemic - a higher figure that included the month of July.

    "The figures are really quite alarming," Isabel Ortiz, a top women's rights official, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

    "We know the numbers of women and girls who have disappeared, but we don't have detailed information about how many have been found," she said. "We don't have proper and up-to-date records."

    The Andean nation home to 33 million people has long had a domestic violence problem, but the home confinement measures because of the pandemic has made the situation worse, said Eliana Revollar, who leads the women's rights office of the National Ombudsman's office, an independent body that monitors Peru's human rights.

    Peru is one of the hardest virus-hit Latin American nations, with more than 430,000 COVID-19 cases and 20,000 related deaths.

    Hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising number of patients and healthcare workers have protested against a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

    Before COVID-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every single day, but since the lockdown, that number has surged to eight a day.

    The women's ministry said the government was working to eradicate violence against women and had increased funding this year for gender-based violence prevention programmes.

    Countries worldwide have reported increases in domestic violence under coronavirus lockdowns, prompting the United Nations to call for urgent government action.

    Before the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of women throughout Latin America, including Peru, were staging mass street demonstrations demanding that their governments should act against gender-based violence.

    Coronavirus: How is lockdown worsening domestic violence?

    The Stream

    Coronavirus: How is lockdown worsening domestic violence?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies