Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 14th 2015 Contents B14
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, May 14, 2015
The fate of a pregnant ten-year-old
has not only become a national debate
in Paraguay but has underscored what
activists say is a problem with child
rape in this poor South American
nation and led other victims to speak
Cristina Britez de Mendoza is the
director of a shelter for troubled youth
in Ciudad del Este, a gritty and bustling
town of 350,000 that sits across the
border from Brazil and Argentina. She
said many of the children she works
with have been sexually abused, such
as a 12-year-old girl who gave birth
last month. The girl lives at the shelter
with the baby.
"When the other children play, this
girl wants to play, too," said Britez de
Mendoza, who attended a rally to
demand stiffer penalties for sex abusers.
"She is still a child."
Monday s rally in Ciudad del Este
drew 200 people under the banner of
No More Abuse! and participants said
it was unprecedented in this city with
little culture of social protest. Another
protest was held in the capital of Asun-
The rallies came amid a fierce debate
over what is best for the ten-year-old
rape victim who is being denied an
abortion. In Paraguay, the procedure
is banned in all cases---even rape---
except when the mother s life is in dan-
ger.The decision to not give the girl an
abortion has sparked international and
local condemnation, with United
Nations human rights experts on Mon-
day blasting Paraguay for failing to
"The Paraguayan authorities decision
results in grave violations of the rights
to life, to health, and to the physical
and mental integrity of the girl as well
as her right to education, jeopardising
her economic and social opportunities,"
the four experts said in a statement.
Looking on at Monday s protest in
Ciudad del Este, a 17-year-old told The
Associated Press she had been repeat-
edly raped by her stepfather from the
time she was nine until she was 14,
when she told her mom about the
"If I had seen protests like this before,
maybe I would have spoken up sooner,
or maybe it wouldn t have happened
to me," said the girl, who is not being
identified in line with The Associated
Press policy of not naming the victims
of sexual abuse.
She said her mother confronted her
stepfather, who denied the abuse and
still lives in the house. The girl said she
is now physically strong enough to fend
off his advances, but for a few years
she was afraid of men and ate heavily
---at one point she weighed 196 pounds
---to make herself less attractive.
have to see him," she said through tears.
"He makes me sick."
About 600 girls 14 or under become
pregnant each year in this country of
6.8 million people. Studies by the US
Centers for Disease Control say thou-
sands of children in the United States
also give birth each year.
In Paraguay "these cases are very
common. What s needed is the political
Paraguayans speak out after abuse of ten-year-old
will to get us out of this hole," said
Britez de Mendoza, who runs the
shelter in Ciudad del Este.
In the case of the ten-year-old,
the girl s stepfather, who is accused
of raping her, was arrested over
the weekend and placed in isolation
to prevent other inmates from
attacking him. The girl s mother
is being held at a female prison
for neglecting to take care of her
In response to the calls for a
therapeutic abortion for the girl,
Paraguayan Health Minister Anto-
nio Barrios has responded that she
is in good health at a hospital and
that the pregnancy, at five months,
is too advanced.
The president of the country s
Episcopal Conference, Msgr Clau-
dio Gimenez, decried the possibility
of a therapeutic abortion, saying
Paraguay is already split over the
"Some want to legalise abortion,
the killing of an innocent who still
is in a period of gestation," he said.
"And for the other side, those who
oppose that idea."
Some protesters said they
thought the controversial case of
the ten-year-old is the tip of the
"How many thousands of other
girls are raped and we just don t
hear about it because they don t
have the baby or don t report it?"
said Sebastian Martinez, 34.
A 17-year-old who said she was raped by her stepfather attends a
demonstration in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay on Monday. AP PHOTO
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