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Conservative Brazilian groups hinder the legal abortion of a 10-year-old girl raped by her uncle

Illustrative image of a girl behind a door.Marcello Jr / Arquivo da Agência Brasil

A 10-year-old Brazilian girl who became pregnant after being sexually assaulted by her uncle in São Mateus, Espírito Santo state, began the abortion procedure this Sunday, after the Court of Justice of that state granted her that right, provided for by the law. As it is a girl who has been abused since she was six years old, the case should be kept secret, like so many others in Brazil, in order to preserve the victim and because it is a delicate matter, such as abortion. But the girl’s process has become a political game after it was leaked to the press and the Minister for Women, Damares Alves, commented on it on her social networks.

Hundreds of raped girls are forced to resort to a legal abortion in Brazil without the need for authorization from the Justice and without the public’s knowledge. But the repercussion has forced the state of Espírito Santo to seek a solution in Recife.

Accompanied by her grandmother and her rag dolls, the girl was calm while waiting for the start of the first stage of the procedure, according to witnesses. The victim and her family have lost the privacy inherent in cases as violent as this one. At the entrance of the Amauri de Medeiros Integrated Health Center (Cisam), where the abortion will be performed, a group of people holding hands shouted “murderer” to the doctor Olympio Moraes Filho, director of the clinic. The girl’s grandmother is sure of the decision they have made, following the granddaughter’s request.

The case had an impact after Minister Damares Alves spread it on social networks and sent a team of officials to the city of the state of Espírito Santo. This Saturday, Alves spoke on her Facebook page, regretting the decision of the Justice to authorize abortion. The also Bolsonarista Sara Giromini, who became famous for her protests in front of the Federal Supreme Court, and who was arrested, exposed the details of the case on social networks. Damares had already sent emissaries from the Secretariat to São Mateus to follow the evolution of the case.

The minister’s gesture generated a climate of terror and witch-hunting in the Justice of São Mateus, a city of 130,000 inhabitants, 183 kilometers from Vitória, capital of Espírito Santo. The matter has become a political dispute, according to sources close to the case, and a “cynical cruelty” for the victim, who is black and lives with her grandmother, a street vendor. The feeling that she could endure violence of such caliber showed signs of racism and disregard for her social class among those who cared for her in public service, they say. The girl lives a common situation for millions of poor children in Brazil. Her mother left, her father is in jail, and the uncle who raped her – the one the police are looking for – is an ex-convict.

Instead, her grandmother is known to worry about the little girl’s education. He only separated from her when he had to go to work. Both she and her granddaughter made it clear to the Justice that they wanted to be protected by Brazilian legislation and interrupt the pregnancy. The girl’s reaction was one of desperation when the option of continuing the pregnancy was hinted at, according to several witnesses. It is already 22 weeks, the deadline for interrupting pregnancy, according to the technical standard of the Ministry of Health.

For Fagner Andrade Rodrigues, Prosecutor for Children and Youth of São Mateus, external interference, in this case, is inadmissible. “The difficult intimate choice made by the family of the victim of violence cannot suffer political, religious or any other interference,” he says. “This is an abominable violation of human rights,” he adds. Abortion in cases of rape of a vulnerable person (when the victim is less than 14 years old or has an intellectual disability) has been included in the Brazilian Penal Code for 80 years.

Physician Olympio Filho faced the pressure without fear of retaliation. It is not the first time that the obstetrician is faced with a case that generates public commotion. Twelve years ago, the Church of Pernambuco excommunicated him for having interrupted the pregnancy of a nine-year-old girl who was raped by her stepfather. Now, he is under pressure from the evangelicals of the state. It is he who is going to examine the case of the pregnant girl who arrives from Espírito Santo to obey the procedure and her wish.

“Maintaining the pregnancy is an act of torture, it is abusing it again, it is for the state to abuse it equal or more than it has already been,” says Olympio Filho. There is also an obstetric risk, hemorrhage, in addition to a lack of psychological structure to assume a motherhood as a result of violence, he warns. “First it is necessary to preserve the girl [víctima de la violación]; and, later, give him the psychological support to overcome it. The damage is much greater if you are forced to continue with the pregnancy ”, he completes.

One of the points that conservatives hold on to is the fact that the pregnancy has reached 22 weeks. That would be the reason why the hospital that treated the little girl would have refused to support the termination of the pregnancy. “How much suffering!” Minister Damares Alves wrote on her Facebook account. “Doctors in the state of Espírito Santo understand that abortion at that age can put the mother’s life at risk or leave her with permanent sequelae, such as a perforated uterus,” she says, something that contradicts the Ministry of Health’s own technical standard .

The rule provides that in case of rape abortion can be performed with up to 22 weeks of gestation, or when the fetus weighs less than 500 grams. The minister, however, appealed to her religious side when addressing the issue. “My heart is in my fist. Since last Sunday I pray for this girl, so that her whole life is preserved and that she gets well, ”he said, stating that he trusts the Judiciary to solve the case.

Experts guarantee that there are no restrictions for abortions in which the life of the mother is at risk, as is the case of the girl. By complying with the law and carrying out the procedure, the case becomes pedagogical for public hospitals in smaller cities that are faced with cases of this nature.

Every hour, four Brazilian girls up to 13 years old are raped, according to the Brazilian Public Safety Yearbook, and most crimes are committed by a relative. In 2018, the latest data available, more than 66,000 rapes were registered in Brazil, 53.8% of girls under 13 years of age. The offensive of the conservatives, including the evangelical bloc, has intensified in recent years, following the model of the radical right in other countries.