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Bolivia: 11-Year-Old Girl Forced to Continue Pregnancy After Religious Intervention

Bolivia: 11-Year-Old Girl Forced to Continue Pregnancy After Religious Intervention

An 11-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by her stepfather is being pressured by religious groups to complete the term despite the risks to her life and mental health.

The young girl was impregnated after being raped and suffering other sexual abuse by a step-grandfather in the town of Yapacaní, in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz region. The assaults took place over the course of 5 months. The girl's 61-year-old relative had been watching her and her siblings because their parents were in another region working, and he is now in jail for the heinous crimes.

But the girl's attempt to get an abortion was intervened by religious officials who took her from the hospital and claimed she had "changed her mind." A Bolivian women's rights organization has said it was "practically a kidnapping."

“The girl didn’t even know what it meant to be pregnant; she told her cousin that she felt something moving inside her tummy. Her cousin told her mother – the girl’s aunt – who reported it to the police,” said Ana Paola García, an executive director with La Casa de la Mujer, a Bolivian women’s NGO.

The girl was taken to a local hospital where she was entitled, by law as an underage rape victim, to obtain a termination. But at the last second, the girl's mother – accompanied by a lawyer from the Catholic Church – arrived and took the girl away.

“There is evidently manipulation by the Catholic church which has practically kidnapped the girl and silenced the mother,” García told The Guardian. “They are violating her human rights. She is being forced to continue with a pregnancy that puts her life at risk."

In response to the backlash over the disturbing case, Bolivia's human rights ombudsman, Nadia Alejandra Cruz, has announced she would be seeking criminal prosecution against the archdiocese of Santa Cruz, as well as hospital staff, for the illegal intervention.

On Twitter, Cruz wrote "The Ombudsman's Office rejects the interference of the Catholic Church [that is trying] to force an 11-year-old girl to continue with a pregnancy as a result of rape."

“We repudiate and reject that the church uses its influence and power to meddle in public policies related to sexual and reproductive rights or to take actions related to underage victims of sexual violence,” Cruz stated. “Bolivia is a secular state.”

Featured Photo: Women and children around the Cathedral dressed in traditional clothes. La Paz, Bolivia. Source:  Dennis Jarvis

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