• Latest News

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Paraguayan 11-year-old Gives Birth After Pregnancy Sparked Abortion Debate

    An 11-year old girl who became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather and was denied an abortion by Paraguayan authorities has given birth, in the culmination of a case which put renewed focus on Latin America’s strict anti-abortion laws.
    The girl, known by the legal pseudonym “Mainumby”, gave birth to a girl weighing 3.55kg (7.8lbs) at the Reina Sofia maternity hospital, a facility run by the Red Cross in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital.
    The baby was delivered by Caesarean section as a natural birth was judged to be too dangerous.
    Neither the mother nor the child are reported to have experienced any health complications. “It was like any other Caesarean, but with the age difference,” Reina Sofia Director Mario Villalba told local radio. “She’s well and progressing like in any other surgery, but we’ll see afterwards how she gets on as a mother.”

    Erika Guevara, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement that Mainumby was “lucky to be alive”, adding that “only time will tell the true extent of the physical and psychological consequences of her tragic ordeal”.

    “The fact that Mainumby did not die does not excuse the human rights violations she suffered at the hands of the Paraguayan authorities, who decided to gamble with her health, life and integrity despite overwhelming evidence that this pregnancy was extremely risky,” she said.

    The case first came to light when the girl’s mother took her to hospital in late April because she had begun to experience swelling and stomach pain. At that point, she was only 10 years old and was already over 20 weeks into her term.

    Her mother had reported as early as January 2014 that her partner was abusing her daughter, but received no response from the authorities. The girl, her two siblings, mother and stepfather shared a rented room in Luque, a town on the outskirts of Asunción.

    After doctors indicated that the girl was pregnant, her mother requested an abortion but Paraguay, where 89% of adults are thought to be Catholic, prohibits the procedure unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.

    Public Health Ministry officials told the Guardian at the time that there was “no reason to interrupt the pregnancy”, and argued that it would be “even more dangerous for the girl to undergo a procedure”.

    Both the girl’s mother and father were arrested, and the girl was taken into the Red Cross hospital.

    Her mother was subsequently released pending further investigation, and has spent the past 10 days at her daughter’s bedside, according to Elizabeth Torales, Mainumby’s lawyer. Torales told press that she would work to place both the girl and her daughter in the custody of her mother.

    The government’s refusal to authorise an abortion, or consider changing the law, earned condemnation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UN health officials and women’s rights groups within Paraguay.

    But the authorities refused to change their position, and in the midst of the media storm the country’s most senior bishop used an Independence Day service on 14 May to criticize outside efforts to impose “barbarism, dehumanisation, and a culture of death”.

    When Pope Francis visited the country in July he avoided any mention of the case, instead dwelling on the role played by Paraguay’s women in rebuilding the country after successive wars, calling them the “most glorious in the Americas”.

    The case has also shed light on widespread child abuse in Paraguay. At least 600 girls aged 14 or under become pregnant in Paraguay every year – whose population numbers little more than six million people.

    Villalba said that the Red Cross are currently treating two pregnant 12-year-old girls, as well as many others who had been the victims of sexual abuse by relatives.

    “Unfortunately this case is not unusual for Paraguay, or the region,” Paula Avila-Guillen, advocacy adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said. “It’s something that, very sadly, we see far too often, and that’s due to a lack of access to basic reproductive health services for girls and women, and a lack of understanding of the consequences for a girl of this very young age being forced to carry out a pregnancy.”

    Avila-Guillen said that political and religious conservatism within Paraguay helped explain the government’s refusal to budge on the issue, but noted that devout countries such as Colombia were able to separate the law from religious belief in cases of rape or incest.

    She called on the Paraguayan government to provide “an abortion law that puts women and girls first”, as well as “comprehensive and scientific sexual information and education” for minors.

    “If women and girls feel comfortable about their bodies, know what is appropriate and are comfortable talking to their teachers and parents, they would be able to denounce abuse a lot earlier and feel empowered to say no to abusive situations,” Avila-Guillen argued, adding that free access to adequate contraception is also “fundamental” in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

    “What is the future for that girl? What will be her opportunities? Can she stay in school? Can she become an adult and a woman that can decide what kind of life she has? She’s being forced to be an adult when she’s 11 and all her childhood is being put on hold,” she added.

    “If they don’t take the necessary steps to protect girls and offer them basic health services, we will keep hearing of these cases,” she concluded.
    • Blogger Comments
    • Facebook Comments


    Item Reviewed: Paraguayan 11-year-old Gives Birth After Pregnancy Sparked Abortion Debate Rating: 5 Reviewed By: BrandIconImage
    Scroll to Top