A few months ago terrible news from Paraguay has shocked the world – a 10-year old girl was pregnant after being molested by her stepfather. And yet, this story that has unraveled in front of our eyes gets much scarier.
The girl was experiencing stomach ache, so her mother took her to the hospital where it was concluded, to everybody’s surprise, that the girl was pregnant. By further examination the doctors could only conclude that she was 21 weeks in pregnancy. According to Amnesty International, the girl was impregnated after being raped by her stepfather. He was arrested and so was the girl’s mother, under the accusations of participating in the molesting.
Child safety services have been advocating that the girl should be allowed to go through an abortion procedure, but the demand was declined. In Paraguay abortion procedures are illegal, and are approved only if the mother’s life is in danger.
“A psychological assessment showed that the girl is a happy normal child, and as there was no risk for her life we have decided to go through with the pregnancy,” said Dr. Antonio Barrios.
In the meantime the girl went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby girl – a child having a child.
One must stop to think what life that little baby will have. With the father (rightfully) in prison and the mother being a child herself, that baby girl has a very gloomy future in homes for orphaned children. Life is a precious thing and a child is a blessing, but not under these circumstances and not as a result of rape. The mother and the baby will certainly be stigmatized for life.
However, as horrible as it sounds, the case of the 10-year old girl is just one of many which are happening daily in Paraguay.
According to data released by the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare, 704 girls ages 14 or less have went into labor during 2014. On average, that’s two labors a day and these numbers only increase with every passing year. Of course, many fear that official assessments aren’t completely precise, as in rural areas these cases often aren’t reported.
This problem is so widespread, that in the countries capital, Asuncion, there is even a center for young mothers – Casa Rosa Maria.
Hospital Casa Rosa Maria is a kind of a shelter for young expecting mothers and those who have already become a mother. One of the girls in the shelter is 11-years old Perla who was raped by her older brother when she was 10. Nine months later she gave birth to her son. The youngest girl who gave birth in Casa Rosa Maria was only nine years old.
Lisa Vera, from the Casa Rosa Maria institute, says that under-aged pregnant girls go through many difficulties, but they adapt to hospital life quickly. “Here, they have the support, psychological and medical, they need,” says Vera.
One of the users of the center is Mercedes, now a 17-year old teen, who was raped by her stepfather when she was only 12.
“My life was miserable while I was living with my mother and stepfather. Now, everything is better. I want to graduate high school, go to college and provide a better life for my daughter. I don’t want her to go through what I did,” says Mercedes.
In the Casa Rosa Maria institute, the staff tries their best to provide the girls the support they need to further their education, find a job and support their children.
Paraguayan girls going through this ordeal can’t count on government support. They can find the help they need only in institutions such as Casa Rosa Maria, and some support is offered by the Catholic Church of Paraguay.