BOGOTA – The death of a 14-year-old rape victim in Paraguay during childbirth has put the spotlight on the country’s high levels of sexual violence against girls and its strict abortion law, campaigners said.
The girl, identified as J.S.P., spent 22 days in a hospital with pregnancy complications and a urinary tract infection before going into labor but suffered three cardiac arrests and died during an emergency cesarean section on Tuesday. Her baby survived.
“It was so sudden, in minutes the cardiac arrest happened,” Hernan Martinez, doctor and director of the National Hospital of Itaugua, told local radio.
“This is about a girl who should not be in this situation. … There are many cases, the sexual abuse of girls and boys.”
According to local media reports, a 37-year-old man was arrested earlier in the week, accused of raping the girl.
In Paraguay, two births a day occur among girls aged 10 to 14 in the country of 6.8 million, and many are the result of sexual abuse by relatives and stepfathers, rights groups say.
But abortion in the majority Catholic nation is only allowed when the mother’s life is in danger; otherwise it is a crime.
Amnesty International reiterated its call for Paraguay to ease its abortion law and better protect girls from sexual violence.
“It’s not just the access to abortion rights, it has to be about comprehensive health care, it has to be about sex education, it has to be about prevention of violence, sexual violence in particular,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
She said the number of girls under age 15 getting pregnant is on the rise in Paraguay and across other countries in Latin America, including Peru and Nicaragua.
A United Nations study published last month also raised the alarm about rising numbers of girls under 15 falling pregnant in the region, adding that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for teenage girls.
Globally the risk of maternal death is four times higher among teenagers under age 16 than women in their twenties, according to the World Health Organization.
Paraguay’s stringent abortion law made world headlines in 2015 when authorities denied a pregnant 10-year-old an abortion after she was allegedly raped by her stepfather.
Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, including six countries that have an outright ban.