Helena Christensen’s photographs of her mother’s homeland, Peru, strike unexpectedly. The assault of colours, the dizzying otherness of the landscape—there is a beauty and bleakness that’s staggering and at times unsettling. Women—dressed in acid pinks, dusty blues, and ochre—are totemic in traditional dress.   Theirs is a strength tested by a terrifying rate of violence and sexual crime though.
Published: 2019/04/13
Updated: 2019/04/13
Helena Christensen

Women in Peru represent a minority in numbers, legal rights, and political representation. On average, ten women are murdered every month in Peru, while figures suggest that a further 20 are victims of attempted murder. Sexual violence is pervasive—a 2012 study (by Lima’s La Católica University) found that 23% of 18-29 year olds had been inappropriately touched on public transport, while the Peruvian courts only processed one percent of rape allegations in 2013. Many younger women work in agriculture and face dangerous conditions and daily sexual harassment. Researchers estimate that 35,000 pregnancies occur every year in Peru as a result of rape. Abortion is illegal.

This is a hard place to be a woman, but a wave of protests by women’s rights activists in recent years, and Peruvian Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations, Ana Maria Romero-Lozada, is starting to get reproductive rights and sexual violence on the public agenda in Peru.

To this end there is some hope that the women pictured here in their traditional dress and timeless landscape may finally have access to rights fit for a modern age.

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