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What are the conditions currently faced by sexual minorities in Peru?



Though there are no laws prohibiting sexual activity between civilians of the same sex, authorities frequently invoke vague laws aiming to uphold "public morality" as a tool to repress sexual "deviance." Moreover, Section 269 of the Military Penal Code of 1988 provides for penalties ranging from 20 days to 20 years in jail for "dishonorable acts of carnal knowledge against the order of nature" (ILGA).

The Lima Homosexual Movement (Movimiento Homosexual de Lima, MHOL) was founded in 1983. But Peru’s first gay pride parade was not held until 2002, when a scant few hundred marchers braved Lima’s unwelcoming atmosphere. Marchers wore masks to hide their identities as they bore signs saying "we want to be visible, but intolerance suppresses us." Rosa, a 33-year-old woman who declined to give her last name, said "I am sure that if I marched without this mask, come Monday I would show up for work without a job." Larry LaFontain, a professor of Puerto Rican and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University in the United States, said "It’s noticeable that lots of people in the parade are scared and concerned… I have friends who are not openly gay and are uncomfortable with being here" (Benson 7 Jul 2002).

Peruvian-born fashion photographer Mario Testino, who wore flashy clothes as an adolescent in Lima, says he could not safely walk the streets of the capital city. "Either my mother lent me her driver, or I spent my allowance on taxis. I couldn’t walk on the street because people threw eggs or shouted at me. In Peru, if you do anything even slightly feminine you’re considered a faggot" (Ross 9 Jul 2001, 1).

Between 1996 and 2000, the government of President Alberto Fujimori carried out a massive sterilization program aimed at poor indigenous women and men, including homosexual men. A quota system rewarded public health physicians with promotions in return for persuading members of these groups to agree to irreversible sterilization. More than 215,000 indigenous women were sterilized. Another 15,000 vasectomies were performed on poor indigenous men. According to gay rights groups, homosexual men were particularly targeted. When seeking treatment for other conditions, they were offered alcohol or other incentives to have a vasectomy. One of those men, Colmer Rengijo, said "they told me 'this will make you more feminine and sexy'" (Mcdermott 25 Jul 2002, 10).

In 1997, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service granted asylum to a male-to-female transsexual from Peru who had been "taunted, humiliated, and physically attacked by her family, classmates, teachers, and strangers on the street," and "arrested and detained by the Peruvian police for being a gay man" (Solomon 26 Mar 2002, 28).

The Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, in Lima, has barred a gay student organization from holding any events. The organization, Parenthesis Collective (Colectivo Paréntesis) was formed by two third-year students, Rodrigo Vecco and Bernardo Nieuwland. In addition, the university has distributed a pamphlet, "Sexual Identity: Is It Possible to Choose?," which describes homosexuality as an illness which can be "cured." The pamphlet was prepared at the request of the university’s chancellor, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima. Cipriani, an arch-conservative, was politically allied with former president Fujimori, who fled Peru and obtained asylum in Japan just before being impeached for corruption (Chauvin 4 Oct 2002, 55).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Benson, Drew. Associated Press World Stream, "Peruvians March with Caution in First Gay Pride Parade" (7 Jul 2002), NEXIS.

Chauvin, Lucien. THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, "Lima Students Decry Homosexuality Tract" (4 October 2002), p. 55.

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). WORLD LEGAL SURVEY, "Peru," [Accessed 4 June 2002].

Mcdermott, Jeremy. THE SCOTSMAN, "Poor Targeted in Peruvian Mass Sterilizations" (25 July 2002), p. 10.

Ross, Deborah. THE INDEPENDENT, "Click! Mario Testino is the King of Fashion Photographers" (London: 9 July 2001), p. 1.

Solomon, Alisa. THE VILLAGE VOICE, "Nightmare in Miami" (26 March 2002), p. 28.