UN weighs in on controversial portrayal of women in Peruvian TV

World Today

Portrayal of women in Peruvian TV drama center of controversy

A television show in Peru is under fire for it’s portrayal of women. While some see it as comedic entertainment, others call it a crass characterization. The United Nations is getting involved. CCTV America’s Dan Collyns reports on how the organization is calling on the government to take action.

Portrayal of women in Peruvian TV drama center of controversy

A television show in Peru is under fire for it's portrayal of women. While some see it as comedic entertainment, others call it a crass characterization. The United Nations is getting involved. CCTV America's Dan Collyns reports on how the organization is calling on the government to take action.

She has missing teeth, braids and works as a maid. Played by a male comedian dressed in drag, La Paisana Jacinta is a popular comic character on Peruvian television. However, some who have campaigned against racism have long said the mocking caricature denigrates Peruvian women from the Andes.

The U.N.’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) agrees:

“I understand that it’s a humorous TV program but watching it we could think that all indigenous people are backwards and can’t think in a modern way. That’s why I think we must see if there’s a way to modify the country’s television policies to avoid representing indigenous people in this way.” -Alexei Avtonomov, VP of U.N. CERD

Chirapaq is the indigenous women’s group which lodged the complaint with the U.N. “People say to us, how can you get in a fight with such a powerful channel with such a big audience?” said Tarcila Rivera, President of Chirapaq. “We don’t see it like that, we believe we are standing up for our rights. The right not to be discriminated against, not to be made fun of, and that our children are not ashamed of us.”

In a letter to Chirapaq, the TV channel, Frecuencia Latina, said the character, in fact, promotes indigenous women.

There’s no question the caricature of the Peruvian woman from the Andes has a following. It’s right up there with the TV channel’s other stars. However, if the U.N. has its way, that won’t be for long. The channel has already been fined more than $25,000 for another portrayal in the show.

El Negro Mama, played by the same actor in blackface, depicts a dim-witted African-Peruvian.

Opponents say Peru may have anti-racism laws, but it’s also public attitudes that need to change.