In terms of Peru, we see an extremely high amount of violence against women. In fact, according to a study done by the World Health Organization, women in the Andean region of Cusco, Peru are the most physically abused women in the world, with women in Lima, Peru, not too far behind (as cited in Rondon 2009). Most women report feelings of unhappiness and pessimism, and that interpersonal violence plays a huge role in the production of psychiatric morbidity (Rondon 2009). It is noted that gender-based violence is widely tolerated, and most of that violence is toward women. It’s not only tolerated by the people that are committing the violence, but the women themselves. Peruvian women tend to accept the domestic violence as a ‘part of marriage’, or because it’s a part of a larger culture that takes place in Peru (Vale 2017), so culturally, this is accepted. Education is also shown to make a huge difference when it comes to domestic violence. Princeton University did a study that found that the less educated you are, there are higher chances of being domestically abused (as cited in Vale 2017), and that also held true in Peruvian culture, especially since men’s education is prioritized over women’s education, 56.3% of women in Peru have received somesecondary education, as compared to the 66.1% of men, and only 6.3% of males are illiterate, as compared to 17.5% of females (Vale 2017). It is clear that any kind of abuse towards women is more frequent in those with fewer economic resources, which is a lot of women in Peru since their culture tells them they have to stay at home, cook, do household duties and raise children, they never have access or aren’t able to utilize any kind of resources. We also see that feminicidos (killing of women, just because they’re women and seen as less than) happen in Peru. There have been 356 feminicidos in Peru within the last four years (as of 2017), with another 174 cases attempted, and of these only 84 cases actually led in conviction (Vale 2017). Judges are also known to be very lenient on their sentencing, with half of the convicts serving less than fifteen years, and some even receiving less than seven (Vale 2017). According to the World Health Organization, the overall lifetime prevalence of physical violence by an intimate partner is 50% in urban areas of Peru, and 62% in rural areas of Peru, with the domestic violence being more fatal than it is in other countries (as cited in Vale 2017).
This violence towards women can be seen as an epidemic, since it is so prevalent and there isn’t much help for these people who endure it. This reinforces our understandings of health, illness and medicine. In one of our readings from week one, “Recognizing Biological, Social and Cultural Interconnections”, Joralemon mentions that epidemics have interconnections between biological, social and cultural components that lead to the experience of the disease (Joralemon 1999). In terms of Peru, some of the biological outcomes of this abuse can be death, or on a less serious note, bruises, with the range of other outcomes somewhere in-between the two. Mentally, we see these feelings of unhappiness and pessimism. Psychologically, these women are also probably suffering from things such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and many other psychological disorders from the abuse. However, this is culturally reinforced. These women think it’s okay, and that it’s a normal part of marriage that everyone goes through. Socially, these women aren’t educated, given access or the ability to utilize these resources, and shown by the criminal justice system that this isn’t a big deal- even when murder is involved, due to the lessened sentencing or lack of conviction. Joralemon also mentions that the study of human adaptation to an epidemic should be using the analysis of health and disease as a connection between the biological and cultural subfields (Joralemon 1999). Nothing is ever just biological, and looking at the culture behind the disease is important as well. This also makes me think of the week one lecture “Theory of Feminism”. These women in Peru aren’t getting the same education, are seen as less than when compared to the males in the community, aren’t getting the same criminal justice as a man would, and aren’t getting the same help or resources that men could have access too. Socially and culturally, this is a case of sexism.
I think intergenerational trauma reinforces biochemical and mechanical models of health. In the article by Vale, she interviews a woman named Yolanda who said “their father hits their mother, and when they get married they get hit. They see it as normal” (as cited in Vale 2017). Because this type of violence is integrational, it can be difficult to break the cycle. Women grow up watching their mothers get abused, so when they grow up, they expect and tolerate abuse as well, since they see this as normal. It also is the same for the abuser. A man grows up watching is father hit his mother, and thinks that this is what you do to your wife, so he grows up hitting his wife, and so on. It’s all they know and it’s all their taught. One quote from Vale also recognizes this, and she says, “it’s difficult to grapple with an issue that is in many ways tied into the larger economic, political and historical storylines that have resulted in the perseverance of a rural, anachronistic culture” (Vale 2017).
In Peru especially, a lot of work needs to be done towards the reframing the violence against women. It’s so deep in their social and cultural roots that these women desperately need help and resources to see that it’s not okay and that it should never be considered a normal part of marriage.
Joralemon, Donald. “Chapter 3: Recognizing Biological, Social and Cultural Interconnections.” Exploring Medical Anthropology , 1999, pp. 30–43.
Rondon, Marta B. “Peru: Mental Health in a Complex Country.” International Psychiatry , vol. 6, no. 1, Jan. 2009.