On Sunday 22 of October Peru carried out its latest census. A lot of discussion had filled news outposts even before it began as there were questions which were considered inappropriate such as the one on ethnic self-identification or the one on religious beliefs. A campaign had been under way to make census takers write in pen, rather than pencil, because some feared their answers would be changed.
On the day of the census the situation was even worse than expected as there was widespread discomfort with the fact the census was being sponsored by the private university of failed presidential candidate Cesar Acuña who had been found guilty of plagiarism. The t-shirts used by census takers as well as the census materials themselves were branded with the name of his university, Cesar Vallejo. There has been questioning of how well the census was conducted and if the data produced by it will really be useful.
But this was not the worst thing that happened during the census as there were reports of some census takers being mistreated and in one case a volunteer was raped in Villa El Salvador. The first reaction of the INEI, the census taking body, was to try to silence the victim. The reaction from civil society was so strong that this was not possible and a social media campaign was started with the hashtag #perupaisdevioladores (Peru country of rapists). This was put forward by Congresswomen Marisa Glave and Indira Huilca from the leftist group Nuevo Peru. There was an immediate strong reaction against them and the hashtag, as it was considered controversial. Both congresswomen have been cited by the ethics committee in congress.
Another reaction was the response by prime minister Mercedes Araos and minister of culture Salvador del Solar who have set up a commission to address the issue of violence against women. But whereas the prime minister has condemned the use of the hashtag, the minister has asked for attention to be paid to the issue itself. The incident in the census has therefore been important to energise the debate over women’s rights in Peru.