Two managers at a provincial water company in Peru were sentenced to three years in prison in the country’s first convictions under anti-racism statutes.
Azucena Asuncion filed a complaint with human resources at the Sedam Huancayo water utility company in March 2012 after a coworker called her a “black crocodile.” However her complaint went nowhere and Asuncion was ultimately reported for what she says were trumped-up charges for theft.
Asuncion filed charges under racial discrimination statutes which carry sentences of two to four years in prison or 60 to 120 days of community service. A federal court in Junin state sentenced Sedam general manager Luis Perez and human resources manager Augusto Santisteban to serve three years in prison and pay fines of $1,500.
While neither of the two managers made the racial slur, their failure to take administrative action against the employee who did constituted racial discrimination under the law. The sentence marks the first time a Peruvian court has rendered a criminal conviction for racial discrimination.
“The fight against racism is overwhelming,” Asuncion said. “It is so sad to remember the aggression these people treated me with, but the judgment is comforting.”
Asuncion added that she would have liked to see the woman who insulted her receive a penalty.
Asuncion filed her claim with the Alert Against Racism division of Peru’s culture ministry. The organization launched the alertacontraelracismo.pe website for citizens to file claims.
“With this sentence we have taken a very important step in the country because it is a precedent for the work in the rest of the cases that exist,” said Gabriela Perona, a consultant at Peru’s culture ministry and former director of the Alert Against Racism program. Perona added that fining a company and firing managers are other penalties, but in the case of repeated harassment as in Asuncion’s case, criminal charges are the only remedy.
After Asuncion reported the incident on the Alert Against Racism website, she received legal counsel and other assistance from the Center for Development of Black Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP) NGO and the public ombudsman’s office in Junin.
Ley Contra Actos de Discriminación LEY Nº 27270 (Ministerio de Cultura)