Things That Matter

More Than 1,200 Women And Girls Have Gone Missing In Peru During The Pandemic And Officials Think They Know Why

Apart from combating the Coronavirus, Peru has suffered a heartbreaking increase in the number of missing women and girls. Just as hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets to demand an end to gender-based violence, the Coronavirus hit and those same marches have had to be put on hold.

Now, as millions of women are forced to stay at home under strict lockdown orders, they’re spending more time with potentially abusive partners or family members. Many experts believe this combination of circumstances is leading to an increase in domestic violence as hundreds of women in Peru have been reported missing since the start of the pandemic.

Hundreds of women and girls have gone missing since the start of the lockdown.

In Peru, hundreds of women and girls have gone missing and many are feared dead since lockdown orders were put into place to help contain the spread of Covid-19. According to authorities (including Peru’s women’s ministry), at least 1,2000 women and girls have been reported missing since the start of the pandemic – a much higher figure than during non-Coronavirus months.

“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.”

Ortiz is pushing the government to start keeping records so that authorities can track those who go missing – whether they are found alive or dead and whether they are victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence or femicide.

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 programs.

Like many Latin American countries, Peru has long suffered from reports of domestic violence.

Credit: Cecile Lafranco / Getty Images

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.

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

According to the UN, Latin America has the world’s highest rates of femicide, defined as the gender-motivated killing of women. Almost 20 million women and girls a year are estimated to endure sexual and physical violence in the region.

Latin America and the Caribbean are known for high rates of femicide and violence against women, driven by a macho culture and social norms that dictate women’s roles, Ortiz said. She added, “Violence against women exists because of the many patriarchal patterns that exist in our society.”

“There are many stereotypes about the role of women that set how their behaviour should be, and when these are not adhered to, violence is used against women,” she said.

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.

Meanwhile, the country is also struggling to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Cecile Lafranco / Getty Images

Despite implementing one of the world’s longest running stay-at-home orders, Peru has become one of the hardest hit countries. As of August 11, Peru has confirmed more than 483,000 cases of Coronavirus and 21,276 people have died.

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

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Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Culture

Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Joao Laet / Getty Images

With news headlines like “How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous communities”, it’s hard to understate the affect that the Coronavirus has had on Indigenous communities across the world.

Even before the pandemic hit, native populations were already at increased risk of health complications, poor access to medical care, lack of proper education, and even premature death. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues as government programs and NGOs who delivered aid to far flung communities have grind to a halt.

However, many communities have started taking the matter into their own hands by creating their own impromptu healthcare systems based on ancestral techniques and others have barricaded off their villages from the outside world in an effort to stem the flow of the virus.

In Peru, many Indigenous communities are turning to centuries-old medicines to fight back against the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on Peru – the country with the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 mortality rate. At particular risk is the nation’s large Indigenous community, who often lack proper access to education efforts and medical care. This has forced many Indigenous groups to find their own remedies.

In the Ucayali region, government rapid response teams deployed to a handful of Indigenous communities have found infection rates as high as 80% through antibody testing. Food and medicine donations have reached only a fraction of the population. Many say the only state presence they have seen is from a group responsible for collecting bodies of the dead.

At least one community, the Indigenous Shipibo from Peru’s Amazon region, have decided to rely on the wisdom of their ancestors. With hospitals far away, doctors stretch too thin and a lack of beds, many have accepted the alternative medicine.

In a report by the Associated Press, one villager, Mery Fasabi, speaks about gathering herbs, steeping them in boiling water and instructing her loved ones to breathe in the vapors. She also makes syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways.

“We had knowledge about these plants, but we didn’t know if they’d really help treat COVID,” the teacher told the AP. “With the pandemic we are discovering new things.”

One of the plants the Shipibo are using is known locally as ‘matico.’ The plant has green leaves and brightly colored flowers. And although Fasabi admits that these ancestral remedies are by no means a cure, the holistic approach is proving successful. She says that “We are giving tranquility to our patients,” through words of encouragement and physical touch.

Even before the Coronavirus, Indigenous communities were at a greater risk for infectious diseases.

Indigenous peoples around the globe tend to be at higher risk from emerging infectious diseases compared to other populations. During the H1N1 pandemic in Canada in 2009, for example, aboriginal Canadians made up 16% of admissions to hospital, despite making up 3.4% of the population.

Covid-19 is no exception. In the US, one in every 2,300 indigenous Americans has died, compared to one in 3,600 white Americans.

Indigenous groups are particularly vulnerable to dying from Covid-19 because they often live days away from professional medical help. As of July 28, the disease had killed 1,108 indigenous people and there had been 27,517 recorded cases, with the majority in Brazil, according to data published by Red Eclesial Panamazonia (Repam).

Some communities are turning inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food.

Despite the immense threat they face, Indigenous communities are fighting back.

“I am amazed to see the ways that indigenous peoples are stepping up to provide support where governments have not,” Tauli-Corpuz, a teacher at Mexico’s UNAM, told The Conversation. “They are providing PPE and sanitation, making their own masks, and ensuring that information on Covid-19 is available in local languages, and are distributing food and other necessities.”

They are also choosing to isolate. In Ecuador’s Siekopai nation, about 45 Indigenous elders, adults and children traveled deep into the forest to their ancestral heartland of Lagartococha to escape exposure to the Coronavirus, says the nation’s president Justino Piaguaje.

Despite their best efforts, many experts are extremely concerned for the survival of many Indigenous communities.

Credit: Ginebra Peña / Amazonian Alliance

They are already facing the ‘tipping point’ of ecological collapse due to increased threats of deforestation, fires, industrial extraction, agribusiness expansion and climate change,” Amazon Watch executive director Leila Salazar-Lopez told UNESCO of Amazonian Indigenous groups.

“Now, the pandemic has created one more crisis, and as each day passes, the risk of ethnocide becomes more real.”

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An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

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An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Janis Christie / Getty Images

On Monday, news broke that an ICE detention center in Georgia was performing mass hysterectomies on migrants without their consent. The allegations came from a nurse at the facility along with numerous detained migrants and left many people shocked.

However, the U.S. has a long history of forcing people – especially people of color – into unwanted sterilization, which is a human rights violation and a form of eugenics.

Of course, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who are regularly referred to as “unwanted” “aliens” by the current president, it’s not so surprising that these practices went unreported for so long. One immigrant in the complaint put it best: “This place is not equipped for humans.”

An ICE nurse and several migrant women allege that a doctor is removing women’s reproductive systems without their consent.

According to the complaint filed Monday by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, a high number of detained immigrant women held at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga., are receiving hysterectomies, as well as other “dangerously unhealthy practices” at the prison amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dawn Wooten, who worked full-time at the detention center until July, when she was demoted to work as needed, said she and other nurses questioned among themselves why one unnamed gynecologist outside the facility was performing so many hysterectomies on detainees referred to him for additional medical treatment. She alleged about one doctor that “everybody he sees has a hysterectomy,” and that he removed the wrong ovary from one young detainee.

“We’ve questioned among ourselves like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his speciality, he’s the uterus collector,” Ms. Wooten said in the complaint.

One detainee, interviewed by Project South, likened the center to “an experimental concentration camp,” adding: “It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

“If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I think I would have gone insane and just break down and probably gone as far as hurting myself,” the woman said. “There are a lot of people here who end up in medical trying to kill themselves because of how crazy it is.”

The same prison has also come under fire for its medical practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Project South said the complaint alleges “jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19.”

It summarizes the disclosures Dawn Wooten made to the DHS’s watchdog, and quotes unidentified detainees extensively. Covid-19 complaints included staff refusing to test symptomatic detainees, failing to isolate suspected cases, and not encouraging social-distancing practices.

For their part, ICE says to take the reports with skepticism.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative released this statement to Law & Crime News in response to the complaint: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

Women in ICE custody have long been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Credit: Getty Stock

Immigrant detention centers have long been accused of subpar medical care. However, the issue has become even worse amid the pandemic. The report filed by Project South describes how migrants are forced to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions and even thrown into solitary if they advocate for basic human rights. But even before the outbreak, immigrant women’s bodies have always been the target of medical malpractice and cruelty.

ICE has allegedly denied treatment to detained women with cancer, brain tumors, and breast cysts, and it has a history of policing their bodies. The Trump administration has been accused of tracking migrant girls’ periods to prevent them from getting abortions, introduced a policy to deny pregnant women visitor visas, and literally ripped mothers apart from their babies during family separation. Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South, said women held at ICDC have said they are not given clean underwear which leads to infections and rashes.

She said detained women, who are mostly Black and brown, are in extremely vulnerable situations in which “they have no control over their bodies.” “It’s a very exploitative situation,” Shahshahani said of the hysterectomies. “There does not seem to be informed consent … they had pretty much no say in what exactly took place.”

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