Paraguay denies abortion for 10-year-old rape victim

By Efrosini Costa

Paraguay denies abortion for 10-year-old rape victim
The international community is outraged after a decision by Paraguay' government to deny a 10-year-old rape victim the right to an abortion.

The young girl, who cannot be named for safety reasons, fell pregnant after she was allegedly raped by her stepfather.

Now more than five months pregnant the child is forced with having to go through with the birth after a request to terminate the pregnancy was denied by Paraguay’s health minister.

“There are no indications that the girl’s health is at risk … we are not, from any point of view, in favor of terminating a pregnancy,” Paraguay’s Health Minister Antonio Barrios told local reporters adding  that doctors and a psychologist were providing care to the girl.

The health authority also stressed that the even if abortion were allowed, they would not proceed with this option because it could be risky for the girl at such a late stage in her pregnancy.

Paraguay’s influential Catholic Church has also weighed into the debate, saying “human life is sacred and begins at the moment of conception”.

But human rights groups say the decision is “tantamount to torture” and that it could put the young girl’s health at risk.

Abortion in the South American country is only allowed when the mother’s life is in danger, otherwise it is considered a crime.

Authorities discovered that the girl was expecting after she presented at a local hospital with her mother, complaining of stomach pains.

It was then uncovered that she had been the victim of ongoing sexual abuse by her mother’s husband. The girl’s mother reported the abuse to authorities last year but no action was taken, according to media reports.

The girl’s mother has since been imprisoned, charged with breaching her duty of care. Prosecutors have  also issued an arrest warrant for the 42-year-old stepfather who is on the run.

Shockingly, this is not an isolated case. Two births occur everyday among girls aged 10-14 in Paraguay, many are the result of sexual abuse by relatives and stepfathers.

This case has put the spotlight on this ‘taboo’ issue of incest and sexual abuse in the South American nation.

Amnesty International has argued that making the girl continue with  the unwanted pregnancy was a form of torture.

“Forcing this child to carry a baby to term, against her will, could have devastating health consequences,” Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty’s Americas deputy director said.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death for teenage girls. In Latin America the risk of maternal death is four times higher among teenagers under 16, according to the World Health Organisation.



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