On October 29, the BBC reported the case of an 11-year-old Bolivian girl who became pregnant after being raped continuously for several months by a family member. The case has sparked a “heated debate between human rights activists and the Catholic Church in Bolivia” as religious groups try to force the girl to terminate her pregnancy. The controversial intervention by the Catholic Church has once again shone the spotlight on women’s rights in Latin America.
According to the Guardian, the controversy was sparked after religious groups contacted the victim’s mother and persuaded her to oppose the termination of pregnancy. Since 2014, the termination of a pregnancy in Bolivia is legal without a court ruling in cases of rape. However, the child’s mother, accompanied by a woman claiming to be a church lawyer, took the girl out of the hospital and placed her in a center for teenage mothers.
According to the BBC, Susana Inch, spokesperson for the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, told local media that they have “an ethical and legal obligation to protect the life of the baby – both lives must be protected”. Yet Ana García, executive director of a Bolivian women’s rights NGO, Casa de la Mujer, said that “there is clearly manipulation by the Catholic Church which has practically kidnapped the girl and silences the mother. They violate his human rights. One of the main concerns is that the girl is forced to continue with a life-threatening pregnancy. As a result, Bolivia’s human rights ombudsperson Nadia Cruz said her office will initiate criminal proceedings against medical staff at the hospital, the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz and the girl’s mother for dereliction of duty. due diligence and human trafficking. Cruz points out that Bolivia being a secular state, “his office rejects and rejects the fact that the church is using its influence and power to interfere in public policies related to sexual and reproductive rights or to take action regarding victims. minor sexual violence “.
The culture of rape is defined by the French Institute of Gender in Geopolitics as behaviors that promote, minimize and normalize rape while reinforcing the idea that women are the property of men. Oxfam reported on the results of surveys in Bolivia, Cuba, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, which show that male violence against women persists in the country. daily life of young people in Latin America. In particular, the survey showed that many young people regard male violence against women as “normal” and part of everyday life. Indeed, 56% of women and 48% of men aged 20 to 25 know a woman close to them who has suffered physical or sexual violence in the past year. Similarly, seven in ten people think a woman is responsible if she gets fiddled with because she wears the wrong clothes, while 40% of them think that if a woman has drunk alcohol, she is. to blame if a man rapes her, even though she is unconscious. This type of attitude fuels gender discrimination and helps uphold norms that limit women’s rights, especially reproductive rights.
However, following the Bolivia affair, protests erupted across Latin America, according to International Relations Today. Thousands of women “have taken to the streets to call on their governments to take action on many societal injustices, including institutional neglect in cases of abuse and harassment, the sexist educational program that is provided in most of the world. countries and global inequalities in all societal spheres ”. Latin American countries have also made creative and serious efforts to protect women. Seventeen countries have passed laws making femicide a crime separate from homicide, with long mandatory prison sentences. Guatemala has even created special courts where men accused of gender-based violence are tried. Research has shown that these specialized courts have played an important role in recognizing violence against women as a serious crime, punishing it and providing victims with much-needed legal, social and psychological support. Many countries have also created female-only police stations, improved mechanisms for reporting gender-based violence, and funded more shelters for women. Women have also expressed the need and desire to reduce anti-abortion laws, with Argentina now legalizing abortion for up to 14 weeks. It is now plausible that activists in major neighbors such as Chile and Brazil are using this monumental moment to push for legal changes that allow for broader reproductive rights in their own countries.
Yet Latin American countries still have some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Nicaragua is one of six countries in the region that does not allow abortion under any circumstances, while Guatemala only allows it if a woman’s life is in danger. In addition, the Catholic Church remains very influential in Latin America and has opposed any initiative to extend reproductive rights, even going so far as to force an eleven-year-old rape victim to give birth. In many cases, women who become pregnant, whether the relationship is consensual or not, are considered responsible for the unborn child by virtue of the traditional role of woman. It is common for women who are raped to be portrayed as “irresponsible, sexually provocative or risk-taking individuals” by allowing themselves to be exposed to the abusers, deserving any hardship that may result. It cannot continue. More needs to be done to change attitudes, especially in cases of rape of minors. Women’s rights to security, choice and liberty are paramount: this should be the priority of every nation in the world.