Survivor turned advocate: Peruvian seeks justice for women

Melania Trump and Cindy Arlette Contreras standing among women (© Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump presents the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award to Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista of Peru in 2017. (© Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista has been fighting for justice for victims of gender-based violence since 2015, when a court dismissed charges against a man she accused of attempted murder and rape. Despite her attack being caught on film and shared widely on social media, the court handed down a one-year sentence for assault.

Her personal tragedy fueled her commitment to shine a spotlight on violence against women in her home country of Peru. Today, Contreras is an outspoken advocate for survivors of domestic violence, and, with her expertise as a lawyer, is leading a sweeping women’s rights movement across the country and the region.

“At this moment I am the voice of women who cannot speak, who cannot tell their stories, who cannot sit in front of you at this moment and publicly denounce everything they live day to day,” Contreras said in Washington in March on a panel session about violence against women held at the Organization of American States.

There she spoke about her work as an advocate for women and about Not One Woman Less, a grassroots movement Contreras launched with the help of other survivors and civil society organizations in Peru.

In 2017, Contreras traveled to Washington to meet first lady Melania Trump and receive the International Women of Courage Award, which recognizes women who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership. Contreras was selected for her activism on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence and her advocacy for institutional accountability. She was among 13 women from around the world who were recognized.

“As we all know, wherever women are diminished, the entire world is diminished with them,” the first lady said at the 2017 event.

Since winning that award, Contreras has continued to work for justice for women. She was selected as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2017 and one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2018.

The judicial process does not have to be a test of resistance for survivors, Contreras says. “I want to leave a precedent that serves and that is useful — that is why I continue with many challenges.”

This article was written by freelance writer Maeve Allsup and draws from a State Department blog, DipNote.