El Salvador: Rape survivor sentenced to 30 years in jail under extreme anti-abortion law
The decades-long prison sentence handed a 19-year-old rape survivor in El Salvador after she suffered pregnancy-related complications is a terrifying example of the need the country to urgently repeal its retrograde abortion law, Amnesty International said today.
Evelyn Beatriz was admitted to a health centre in Cojutepeque, 33km north of the capital San Salvador, on 6 April 2016 after she fainted at home. She was in labour but unaware she was pregnant. Local organisations say Evelyn had been raped months earlier but that she had been too afraid to report it to the authorities. Staff at the hospital reported Evelyn to the authorities.
She was taken to court charged with ‘aggravated homicide’, and on Wednesday (5 July), she was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Her lawyers are appealing the sentence.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:
“El Salvador’s anti-abortion law is causing nothing but pain and suffering to countless women and girls and their families. It goes against human rights and it has no place in the country or anywhere.
“The total ban on abortion in El Salvador violates women’s rights to life, health, privacy, due process and freedom from discrimination, violence and torture and other ill-treatment. All women and girls imprisoned for having had an abortion or experiencing obstetric emergencies should be immediately and unconditionally released, and the law must be repealed without delay.”
Abortion has been criminalised in all circumstances in El Salvador since 1998, even when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or when the life or health of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk. Many women and girls have lost their lives or been imprisoned due to the total abortion ban.
The current legal framework forces women and girls to resort to unsafe abortions, and creates an atmosphere of suspicion around women who miscarry or experience other obstetric emergencies. As a result, women who experience complications during pregnancy have been prosecuted and convicted on charges of “aggravated murder” with sentences of up to 40 years’ imprisonment.