The United Nations, along with a local women's rights group on Monday criticized the government of Peru for failing to do more to protect women.

“To be a woman today in Peru depends very much on what position one finds herself in,” Maria Elena Reyes, director of the Manuela Ramos movement, a Lima-based women’s advocacy group, told The Anadolu Agency on Monday.

“It’s very different to speak of women who live in urban areas, above all in the capital, than those in rural areas. It’s altogether different if the women are indigenous, afro-Peruvian, or have a low level of education.”

United Nations human rights experts have urged the Peruvian government to do more to protect women who are routinely exploited in the workplace and are denied full reproductive rights, a product of the country’s rigid machismo culture.

Despite great strides in promoting gender equality and a decade-long boom that cut poverty by 26 percent, women remain “severely affected by the precarious nature of employment,” Frances Raday, of the U.N.’s working group on discrimination against women in law and in practice, said in Lima.

Almost four in five working women are in informal employment – concentrated in domestic work, and the agro-export and craft sectors – and are ripe for exploitation.

No social security, maternity leave, or health coverage, as well as lower wages and longer hours in comparison to men are “authorized by legislation, institutionalizing discrimination,” she said.

A “plague of sexual violence” was another urgent issue, with low prosecution rates and stigmas over reporting cases silencing women.

More than a third of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been victims of domestic and sexual violence, according to national statistics, while 66 died in related cases in the first half of 2014, the Ministry for Women and Vulnerable Populations reported.

The five-member working group said indigenous women face huge hurdles in seeking justice, hindered by language barriers and unfamiliarity with their rights. They along with Peru’s black population, who make up less than 10 percent of the population, were further victims of racism and media stereotypes.

Forced sterilizations in the 1990s on poor rural women as a method of birth control, along with other crimes committed during the country’s brutal internal conflict have never brought justice for the victims.

High teenage pregnancy rates, in part due to banned emergency contraception, and legal abortions in limited cases, were further proof of women’s oppression, the group said.

Peru has the highest rate of reported rape in South America, where girls and adolescents make up 78 percent of cases, according to the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

In July, new guidelines were made to allow women access to legal abortions if the mother’s life or health is at risk – 90 years after the original law passed.

A recent shuffling of top political posts, saw the appointment of Peru’s third-ever female premier, and the president of Congress’ job go to a woman. Though a target for 30 percent of women to fill seats in Congress hasn’t been hit.

“Leading women are important, but you have to look at the whole infrastructure of political decision-making,” Raday said.

“It depends on each individual woman as to how she utilizes her position to promote equality for women in general.”

The Ministry for Women and Vulnerable Populations didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment on the findings.

The working group, which was set up in 2011, spent nine days in Lima and Ayacucho, the site of the worst violence in Peru’s armed conflict, and met with ministers and the national ombudsman.

A report with their final findings will be published next June.

“We appreciate the advances as fruit of all the work of feminists movements that precede us,” added Reyes. “Though there’s a long way to go,” she added.

Anadolu Agency