Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Population Policy and Family Planning

The issue of slowing population growth through the systematic implementation of modern birth-control methods had remained lowkey since the late 1960s but erupted during the 1980s, as a result of pressure coming particularly from women. Research in the early 1980s showed that over 75 percent of women wished to use contraceptives, but over 50 percent did not do so out of fear and uncertainty about their effects or because of the disapproval of the spouse. In this context, the 1985 Law of the National Population Council came into being under the premise that although abortion and voluntary sterilization were excluded, all other "medical, educational, and information services about family planning guarantee that couples and all persons can freely choose the method for control of fecundity and for family planning." The proposed law was opposed in 1987 by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops, which retained its opposition to artificial methods and "irresponsible philosophies." Implementation of the law, however, began that year, setting targets for lowering fecundity rates to 2.5 children per family by the year 2000 and greatly amplifying the availability of clinical resources and contraceptives. In addition to government programs, there were sixteen private organizations promoting various aspects of the policy by 1988.

In 1986 a reported 46 percent of women of child-bearing age were using some form of contraception, but it was not known what percentage of men used contraceptives. The data on the incidence of abortions was not compiled until the 1980s, but according to hospital reports, in 1986 there were 31,860 abortions performed for life-threatening sociomedical reasons, which represented almost 43 percent of all hospital cases involving obstetrical procedures. The estimated rate of clandestine abortions, however, was reportedly at the high rate of 143 cases per 1,000 pregnancies, despite a law that in theory prohibited such interventions. A survey in 1986 of women's attitudes toward contraception and family planning showed that over 27 percent of women would halt their family size after one child, 69 percent would limit their family to two, and over 80 percent desired no more than three children. It was clear from this response that Peruvian women wanted to limit family size and that their demands for increased state and private services would continue to rise.

During the 1975-90 period, contraceptives became more widely available throughout Peru, being distributed or sold nationwide through Ministry of Health programs and private clinics, pharmacies, and even by street vendors in marketplaces. Pharmacies were the most common source of both information about and supply of contraceptives. Not surprisingly, use of birthcontrol techniques increased sharply with socioeconomic status, educational level, and urban coastal residence.

Data as of September 1992