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A charter for improving the lives of children in Peru

In 1990, Peru was one of the first countries in Latin America to ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Two years later, new legislation (the Child Code) was introduced in Peru to protect the rights of children, including a law which stipulated the creation of a national system of care for children and adolescents in difficult circumstances.

When the Child Code came into force, the Peruvian Ministry of Justice (in partnership with Save the Children) launched a pilot project in six districts of Lima to set up municipal children’s defence centres (DEMUNAs). Nearly twenty years later, there are now over 1,000 DEMUNA offices in municipalities throughout Peru. Funded by local authorities, they deal with a range of child support issues, from advice on parenting to cases of violence and abuse of children. In 2009, the Ministry of Women and Social Development (MIMDES) reported over 5,000 cases of abuse against children of 11 years and under in Peru. And these figures massively under-represent the scale of the problem, since many cases go unreported as families choose to deal with the issue privately. The MIMDES estimates that 8 out of 10 Peruvian children suffer some kind of physical and psychological violence, mostly at home and with many of the victims being girls.

This week, Peruvian politicians have acknowledged there is still much work to be done to protect the rights of children twenty years after the UN Convention was signed. Elections in Peru are due in April and all the presidential candidates have signed a charter which commits them to improving the lives of Peru’s children and adolescents. The charter – ‘Agenda for the Rights of the Child’ – has been drawn up by a group of 40 local and international organisations involved in working with children in the country.

The charter sets out clear targets for the next government in child areas such as education and health, where campaigners expect to see the closing of the gender gap in access to primary education and a significant reduction in child malnutrition and anaemia. To address problems of abuse and child trafficking, the charter proposes that new protection measures are put in place - a national registry for cases of violence against children and a scheme to provide all children with official identity papers.

A spokesperson for the coalition of organisations, Mariella Greco from Plan International, says the charter commits the next government of Peru to “prioritise lifting millions of Peruvian children and adolescents out of poverty, neglect and abuse”.

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