Peru Debates Death Penalty as Punishment for Sexual Crimes against Children

By Chanduvi Jana, Elsa | NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, February 23, 2018 | Go to article overview

Peru Debates Death Penalty as Punishment for Sexual Crimes against Children


Chanduvi Jana, Elsa, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs


The rape and murder of 11-year-old Jimena Vellaneda in Lima on Feb. 1 opened the debate on the death penalty in Peru, where the maximum punishment for someone who sexually abuses and kills children is life imprisonment.

On Feb. 8, more than 4,000 people participated in the "March for safety, justice and peace for our children," referred on social media as the #JimenaRenace (Jimena is Reborn) march. The march went through Lima's main downtown streets. Thousands of others marched in the cities in the departments of Ica, Arequipa, Trujillo, Huancayo, and Pucallpa.

"I didn't think we'd have so much support," said Jorge Vellaneda, Jimena's father, when he spoke about the march organized in his daughter's memory.

After meeting with the girl's parents, Mercedes Araoz, head of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's Cabinet, told reporters, "We are going to support this family so their case does not go unpunished. We are going to be in contact to cover every necessity. This man, this criminal, must receive the maximum punishment; he should get life imprisonment. We will back this family so that this man ends up in prison and rots there."

On Feb. 11, the Justice Department issued a nine-month preventive detention order for Cesar Alva Mendoza, the man who had confessed to kidnaping, raping, killing, and trying to burn Jimena in the San Juan de Lurigancho neighborhood of Lima. The Prosecutor's Office has 120 days to investigate and begin proceedings against the defendant.

Jimena, who was attending a vacation program in a local police station, was kidnapped as she left the building. The director of the national police, Gustavo Hananel, decided on Feb. 7 to change all 150 officers at his station after he found out that his staff had not responded adequately when the girl's parents reported her disappearance and asked them to help search for her.

The Ombudsman's Office demanded the cancellation of all summer workshops and other youth activities held at police stations, saying those places aren't appropriate spaces. On Feb. 12, Interior Minister Vicente Romero complied.

"Vacation workshops will no longer take place in police station facilities," he said.

According to data from the organization that runs Peru's penal system, the Instituto Nacional Penitenciario (INPE), 8,097 people were incarcerated on sexual assault charges in Peru in November 2017. Article 173 of the penal code establishes life in prison if the victim is a minor and dies as a consequence of a rape.

Statistics from the Public Prosecutor's Office Crime Observatory show that 52 sexual assaults of boys and girls are reported every day in Peru.

Disappearances and early pregnancies

The National Police said that 2,654 complaints of missing minors were filed in 2017--72% were girls and 28% boys. Of those, 10% turned out to be kidnappings or murders. In the 2013-2017 period, 90% of the victims of sexual abuse were women, and 76% of those were minors between the ages of 13 and 17.

Because of what happened to Jimena, Romero, the interior minister, announced the country would implement an Amber Alert system to locate missing children and teenagers quickly. This program sets up an immediate search via the media and involves the general public in the effort.

Similarly, the Interior Ministry has launched the #TeEstamosBuscando (we're looking for you) campaign, which uses social media sites to issue alerts from its investigations department. Some 11 minors have been found that way in Lima, but 27 alerts are still unresolved.

Another alarming fact in Peru is the number of underage girls who become mothers. Comprehensive Health Department statistics reveal that between 2012 and 2017, government hospitals attended 151,009 pregnant girls between the ages of 9 and 17. Of those, 716 were younger than 12, indicating situations that, according to the law, could be considered rape, because the girls were so young. …

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