By Anastasia Moloney
BOGOTA, Jan 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Peru is to start giving government financial aid to children whose mothers were murdered, in a push to address widespread violence against women, a top official said on Friday.
Latin America and the Caribbean have the world's highest rates of femicide - the killing of a woman by a man due to her gender - according to the United Nations.
Peru has recorded about 1,200 femicides since 2011 when it was made a specific crime carrying a longer sentence than murder, although activists say the true figure is likely higher.
Now the government is to pay the guardians of children whose mothers were victims of femicide - typically aunts, uncles or grandparents - about $100 a month to look after them until they are 18.
"The economic assistance seeks to satisfy basic and indispensable needs, their food, health," said Patricia Carolina Garces, vice-minister at the women's ministry.
"It seeks to allow that these girls and boys remain living with their families and aren't uprooted and taken to children's homes so that they continue to live together," Garces told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Children who go on to higher education will continue to receive the financial aid, equivalent to a third of the minimum monthly wage, until they complete their studies.
The allowance will also be granted to people with disabilities who were cared for by the victim of femicide.
Children will receive free psychological support in dealing with the trauma of losing their mothers and witnessing often years of domestic violence, and in some cases, their fathers killing their mothers, Garces said.
In Peru and across Latin America, violence against women is driven by entrenched machismo culture, which tends to blame victims, and gender-based violence is often tolerated, Garces said.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, tens of thousands of women have taken to the streets in Peru and across Latin America since 2018 to speak out against domestic and sexual violence and demand justice for victims.
More than a dozen countries in Latin America have passed laws in recent years that define and punish femicide as a specific crime, including El Salvador, Mexico and Colombia.
Similar allowances to children whose mothers were victims of femicide have also been introduced in Argentina and Uruguay.
Worldwide, a third of all women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, according to the United Nations.
Many femicide victims in Peru and across Latin America are murdered at home, often by current or former boyfriends or husbands with a history of domestic abuse.
According to official figures, 205 children lost their mother to femicide in Peru last year alone.
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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