Vance Center Supports Indigenous Women and Maternal Health in Peru

May 2022

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The Human Rights and Access to Justice Program recently submitted an amicus brief before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, challenging Peru’s failure to comply with its obligations under international law regarding Indigenous campesino (peasant) communities and maternal health care in Peru. The International law firm Cleary Gottlieb worked as co-counsel with the Vance Center on the brief.

The case, Eulogia and her son Sergio, came before the Commission in 2009, alleging that Eulogia Guzmán, an Indigenous Quechua woman belonging to a campesino community, was subjected to obstetric violence – including the manner, means, and location at which she was required to give birth – in violation of rights enshrined in the American Convention of Human Rights. As a result, her son was injured during birth and suffered severe disabilities and pain and eventually died.

The amicus brief provided the factual and legal background on the treatment of campesino communities in Peru to help the Commission evaluate the merits of the case, including: (1) historical background on campesino communities in Peru; (2) Peru’s international legal obligations to protect campesino communities and specifically to secure their right to maternal health; and (3) the consequence of the breach of these obligations by Peruvian national legislation in damage to Eulogia and ongoing harm to other peasant women.

Under the rules of the Commission, it will issue a report on the merits and consider whether to recommend the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This case represents an opportunity for the Commission to clarify the responsibilities of States to prevent and punish obstetric violence, a form of gender violence that especially affects people from Indigenous communities whose maternal health care practices are not recognized or respected. The case also would allow the Commission to reinforce calls from other international human rights organizations, such as the United Nations mechanisms, that States, including Peru, should comply with their obligations under international law to eliminate discrimination against Indigenous populations and guarantee universal access to adequate maternal health care.