Realizing Children’s Rights in Peru
Socio-economic inequalities continue to affect the lives of children in Peru, exposing them to sexual exploitation, child labour, gender-based violence and more recently, orphanhood due to COVID-19. Though the country has ratified numerous landmark international instruments for the protection of children’s rights, persistent disputes in the government undermine the country’s ability to protect rural, impoverished and Indigenous children.
Children’s Rights Index: 7,63 / 10
Orange level: Noticeable problems
Population: 33.92 million
Pop. ages 0-14: 25%
Life expectancy: 76.74 years
Under-5 mortality rate: 13‰
Peru at a glance
The Republic of Peru (República del Perú) is a country located in western South America. To the north, Peru shares a border with Ecuador and Colombia, to the east with Brazil, to the southeast with Bolivia and to the south with Chile. Along the country’s south and western coastline lies the Pacific Ocean. Lima is Peru’s capital and its largest city (Davies et al, 2022).
Severe disputes between government branches results in Peru enduring political and institutional instability. This institutional crisis has led to five presidential changes since 2016 and frequent political conflict. The repeated resignation of presidents and instances of impeachment have caused recurring closures of parliament.
However, despite this, over the last two decades, Peru has had one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. In 2019, a World Bank study revealed that 20% of the Peruvian population lived below the national poverty threshold. Poverty has been closely linked to the increase in child labour, early school dropouts and child sexual exploitation (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Peru is home to 55 different indigenous groups living across the Amazonian region and the Andes. Children from these communities are at an increased risk of exploitation due to poverty and as a result of isolated geographical locations, accessing education and health care services is difficult (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Status of children’s rights 
Peru has committed to several international instruments for the protection of children’s rights. In 1990, the government ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Peru is also party to other international human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which it ratified in 1982, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1978 and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Racial Discrimination in 1971.
In 2002, the government ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Also, Peru has ratified all key international child labour conventions including the International Labour Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138); Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); the UN CRC, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, the UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict. Nationally, in 2020, the government made significant advancements to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. The government passed Law 31047 which set the minimum legal age for domestic work at 18 years old (US Department of Labour, 2020).
Peru is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS) and is bound to the Inter-American System of Human Rights. In 1996, the government ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (known as the Belém do Pará Convention).
Nationally, following the ratification of the CRC, in 1992 the government strengthened the legal authority of the CRC with the approval of the Children’s and Adolescents’ Code (el Código de los Niños y Adolescentes) which incorporated the CRC.
Since 1992, the child protection system in Peru has been made up of the National System of Integral Attention to Children and Adolescents which is run by the Ministry of Women and Social Development, the Comprehensive National Program for the Welfare of Families, the National Program against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Children’s Bureau (Davis, 2015).
All court proceedings relating to children take place in national Family Courts: the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, and the Office of the Defence of the Child and Adolescent (Davis, 2015).
Addressing the needs of children
Right to education
The school completion rate in Peru is higher than in most Latin American countries. From April to June 2021, 86.9% of girls and boys attended secondary school and 97.7% attended primary school. However, school dropouts still pose an issue. Data collected from 2021 indicated that 66.7% of children aged between 6 to 16 stated that economic hardship was the main reason for not attending school. (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Amongst the communities that live in Peru, Indigenous children face several barriers to accessing education. In 2017, the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics, highlighted that among children older than the age of 12 years, 9.4% of Indigenous children from the Andean region, 14.4% of Indigenous children from the Amazonian region and 4.9% of Afro-Peruvian children had no formal education (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Education enrolment rates among Venezuelan migrant children remain low due to lack of formal identity documents and financial means. In 2018, official data indicated that 25.3% of Venezuelan children in Peru aged between3 to 5, 46% aged between 6 to 11 and 42% aged between 12 to 16 were attending full time education (Josenhans et al, 2021).
A 2022 Save the Children report found that for Venezuelan migrant children living in Lima and Libertad, the two most populated regions in Peru, one in four children were not in school. The main barriers preventing Venezuelan children from accessing education in Peru are lack of access to the internet in order to enrol (29%), insufficient space within schools (45%), and r children arriving after schools have closed their enrolment (23%). Additionally, 1 in 10 Venezuelan children face discrimination from school administration which hinders their school enrolment (Valdivieso, 2022).
Right to health
Over the past decade, the government has made strides in decreasing hunger and poverty through investments in social programmes, health, education and infrastructure. The chronic child malnutrition rate is 13.1%. However, in rural areas such as the Sierra and Amazonian regions, child chronic malnutrition rates are as high as 33.4%. Limited access to nutritious food has led to widespread health problems including anemia and obesity (World Food Programme, 2022).
In response to the chronic child malnutrition problem, the Juntos SWAp nutrition project was established in the Amazonian, Cajamarca and Huánuco regions of Peru. This project was established to support the government in their demand, supply and governance of nutrition services. The main three components of this project were: (1) strengthening and consolidating conditional cash transfer (CCT) for families with children under 36 months of age; (2) improving the quality and coverage of basic preventative health and nutrition services; (3) strengthen the government’s capacity to influence nutritional outcomes (The World Bank, n.d).
Peru has high rates of adolescent pregnancy, especially in the Andean region. In 2021, there were approximately 1,436 pregnant adolescents in Peru under the age of 15, which was an increase from 1,177 pregnant adolescents in 2020. Increasing adolescent pregnancy rates are attributed to poverty, the lack of accessible contraception and comprehensive sexual reproductive education. A UNFPA report in Peru indicates that seven of every 10 pregnant adolescents in Peru leave school (Bayarte, 2022).
Right to clean water and sanitation
In 2016, the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation estimated that 3.4 million Peruvians did not have access to clean water and 8 million did not have access to adequate sanitation. Larger gaps exist for Indigenous communities living in the Amazonian region. The National Survey on Strategic Programs revealed that in 2017, only 72.2% of Peruvians living in rural areas had access to water and less than 25% had access to adequate sanitation (UNICEF Peru, 2019).
To address the lack of water and sanitation, the government implemented a legal framework, DL No. 1280, ‘Ley Marco de la Gestión y Prestación de los Servicios de Saneamiento’. This framework was drafted to further the goal of providing sanitation to all urban areas by 2021 and rural areas by 2030 (UNICEF Peru, 2019).
Right to identity
Article 6 of the New Code of Children and Adolescents (Law 27337) provides children the right to identity, which includes the right to a name and nationality. The establishment and creation of the right to identity remain an important issue for the Peruvian government and this is demonstrated in the National Agenda on Children and Adolescents 2021-2026, which highlights that the government intends to register newborn children within one month of their birth. Within this Agenda, the government has conveyed that economic disparities should not limit families’ access to birth registration (UNICEF, 2021).
Prior to 2006, there were obstacles that existed for children born out of wedlock. Despite Article 6 protecting the right to identity, for children born out of wedlock, if the father denied parentage, the child would be unable to use their father’s surname. Since 2006, the amendment of Law 28720 and Article 20 and Article 21 of the Civil Code, brought a change to the unequal treatment in the right to name specifically for children born out of wedlock (Velásquez Rodríguez, 2005).
In 2016, 99.2% of Peruvians held national identity cards (Human Rights Council, 2017). The majority of children in Peru have national identity documents. However, barriers still exist in accessing birth registration for Indigenous children, children living in rural areas and children living in poverty (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2016).
Risk factors → Country-specific challenges
Notwithstanding the establishment of laws and regulations, gaps still exist enabling children in Peru to be subjected to the worst forms of child labour, particularly in the lack of prohibition of child recruitment by non-state armed groups (US Department of Labour, 2020).
Children in Peru are subjected to child labour, particularly in the agriculture sector, harvesting rice, nuts, chestnuts, crabs, shrimp eggs and prawns and fishing. Children are also subjected to forced labour in other sectors such as the mining of silver and gold, the production of bricks for construction, garbage scavenging, timer logging, and forced domestic work which often results in child trafficking (US Department of Labour, 2020).
Economic vulnerabilities expose Peruvian children to risk factors such as increased school drop-out rates and child labour. Children living in poverty are more likely to become targets for criminal gangs who lure vulnerable young people through fake employment contracts (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Sexual exploitation and child trafficking
Peru is a source, transit and destination country for child trafficking for sexual purposes. Socio-economic inequalities continue to shape children’s vulnerabilities in Peru, exposing them to sexual exploitation at the hands of criminal gangs. Indigenous children, living in the Amazonian and Andean regions of Peru are at a heightened risk of child sexual exploitation. It has been reported that Indigenous girls from these regions, and particularly those who live close to illegal mining areas are vulnerable to child trafficking, sexual exploitation and prostitution (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Data from 2020 shed light on the magnitude of exploitation and trafficking in Peru. This report revealed that 40.5% of reported cases of human trafficking were committed against children and most of these cases were related to sexual exploitation.
There were two main venues identified as hotbeds for trafficking: 31.6% of reported cases occurred in brothels and 52.1% of reported cases in nightclubs (Josenhans et al, 2021). More recently, since there has been an increase in the number of internet users, there has also been a rise in fraudulent online job offers, online grooming and scams used to lure and sexually exploit children into prostitution.
Despite the ratification of major international conventions and frameworks to prevent child sexual exploitation, limitations still exist in practice. For example, in Peru, live-streaming child sexual abuse has not yet been criminalized by law.
However, the government has demonstrated its commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation through the National Policy against Trafficking in Persons and the Multi-Sectorial Policy for Girls, Boys and Adolescents 2030 (Josenhans et al, 2021). Since 2022, Peru has been a member of the Inter American Children’s Institute, a regional body which aims to tackle issues affecting children, including sexual exploitation (Josenhans et al, 2021).
In a 2019 National Study on Social Relations, it was found that 58.5% of Peruvians perceived violence against children as socially acceptable and 21.5% considered that it is better not to interfere in cases of sexual abuse against children. Stereotypical and patriarchal attitudes place women and girls at an increased risk of violence, exploitation, trafficking and child marriage (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in gender-based violence in Peru. Between January and September 2020, more than 1,500 girls in Peru had gone missing, there were 75 reported cases of femicide and 35 violent deaths. Data collected from the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations shows that between March and July 2020, 104,000 calls were made to a national hotline in relation to domestic and sexual violence (Godoy, 2020).
In 2021, the Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru released a report indicating that between 2019 and 2020, there were 754 reported cases of sexual violence against Indigenous girls between the ages of 10 and 14. The reporting of cases remains low due to the geographical remoteness of the incidents, and the inability to access social services or law enforcement authorities (CHIRAPAQ, 2021).
Peru is home to the second-largest number of Venezuelan migrants after Colombia. The 2015 humanitarian crisis led to the migration of more than six million Venezuelans. A majority of these children arrive in Peru unaccompanied, undocumented which places them at a heightened risk of being trafficked or exploited (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Peru had one of the world’s highest pandemic death rates during the peak of COVID-19, leaving approximately 100,000 children orphaned. In March 2021, the government endorsed an emergency financial assistance scheme that provided 200 sol (approximately $50 USD) per month to orphan children who lost their parents or primary caregivers during the pandemic (Josenhans et al, 2021).
Last updated 31 July 2022
Written by Vanessa Cezarita Cordeiro
Internally proofread by Aditi Partha
Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2016, March 2). “Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Peru. CRC/C/PER/CP/4-5” Retrieved from United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, accessed on 25 July 2022.
Human Rights Council. (2017, August 23). “National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21*Peru. A/HRC/WG.6/28/PER/1.” Retrieved from United Nations General Assembly, accessed on 25 July 2022.
UNICEF. (2021). “Agenda Nacional de la Niñez y Adolescencia 2021-2026. Propuestas para la atención y protección de niñas, niños y adolescentes en el Peru.” Retrieved from UNICEF, accessed on 12 July 2022.
Velásquez Rodríguez, T. (2005). “¿Se protege el Derecho a la Identidad del hijo extramatrimonial?. Derecho & Sociedad.”(25), 378-386. Retrieved from Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, accessed on 12 July 2022.
 This article by no means purports to give a full or representative account of children’s rights in Peru; indeed one of many challenges is the scant updated information on the children in Peru, much of which is unreliable, not representative, outdated or simply non-existent.