Peru Wants Discrimination to Become a Punishable Crime

Peru’s lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed a bill aimed at reducing discrimination on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity.

The legislation, which mandates stern punishment for those who commit “crimes against humanity,” will have a profound impact on the Jewish community, according to Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.

“Until now, if someone discriminated against you because you were a Jew, there was nothing that could be done,” Steinberg said. “This provides for legal recourse.”

According to Steinberg, the Jewish community played a key role in the legislation.

“This was done specifically at the insistence of the Jewish community,” he said. There are an estimated 3,000 Jews in Peru.

The last remaining step for the legislation to become law is its approval by Peru’s president, Alberto Fujimori, who has already pledged to sign it.

Steinberg said even though he believes that religious discrimination would continue to exist, the new legislation would go a long way in assuring the equal treatment of all people, especially in areas such as the workplace.

Provisions in the law, which was one vote short of unanimous passage among legislators, include a minimum sentence of six years if found guilty of inflicting wounds “on the physical or mental health of the discriminated groups.”

If found guilty of belonging to groups that intend to commit such crimes, the minimum sentence is eight years, according to a Peruvian press release.

Peru joins only a handful of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, which have laws to punish discrimination-related crimes.

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