Rape of an 11-year-old girl in Bolivia

The rape of an 11-year-old girl who was 22 weeks pregnant has sparked controversy over abortion in Bolivia.

The girl was in the care of her 61-year-old adopted grandfather, who allegedly raped her, for more than five months, in Yabacane, Santa Cruz County, while her mother and stepfather were in La Paz for work, according to the Washington Post .

Ana Paula García Villagomez, executive director of La Casa de la Mujer, a women’s rights NGO, said the girl told a relative she was feeling “strange movements in her stomach”. Her relative told her mother, who complained to the authorities.

The case reached the relevant authorities, specifically the office of the “ombudsman” for children in Santa Cruz. “After one of her relatives reported the incident, the ombudsman intervened,” Villagomez said.

She explained that “the girl was presented to a psychologist, and she said in the interview that all she wants is for this matter to end, and she wants to continue her studies, to be well, and to remove what is inside her body. She did not say the word child or pregnancy, because she You don’t know the meaning of pregnancy.”

The grandfather was taken into custody, and last week, her mother brought her to Percy Poland Hospital for Women in Santa Cruz, to seek an abortion.

In Bolivia, a 2014 constitutional ruling stipulated that abortion could be legal in cases of rape without the need for a court order. But the girl’s mother, accompanied by a woman who claimed to be a lawyer for an organization linked to the Catholic Church, said last Saturday that the girl had changed her mind, according to Villagomez.

Villagomez confirmed that the girl left the hospital and was placed in a shelter run by an organization affiliated with the church, and said, “We have not been able to contact the girl’s mother”, since she stopped answering our calls.

She pointed out that “there was a complete violation of the rights of a poor 11-year-old girl, who was forced to be a reproductive machine.”

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference urged “the authorities to respect and protect the right to life, and the right to good health, of both the girl who was raped and the unborn fetus.”

The statement stressed the need to “protect lives”, noting that “since the girl and her mother decided to continue the pregnancy, taking into account the health of both the girl and the child, other options, such as adoption, should be sought, because it is expected that the girl is not mature enough to take care of Child”.

Activists criticized the statement, and Villagomez wondered about the “emotional impact that pregnancy and childbirth may have on the 11-year-old girl.” The church’s intervention, and the girl’s reversal of her decision, prompted activists and NGOs to assert the girl’s right to have an abortion, according to the newspaper.

An organization that defends human rights filed a criminal complaint against the girl’s mother, hospital staff, the children’s ombudsman, the church organization and the bishops’ conference, for “breach of duties, and human trafficking through forced pregnancy.”

Demonstrations went out in defense of the right to abortion in La Paz. The United Nations office in Bolivia called on the authorities to protect children’s rights, and said that “subjecting a girl to forced pregnancy is a form of torture.”

Washington Post .

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