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Raped from the age of six and pregnant at 10 amid a culture war over legal abortion in Brazil

A woman, in a demonstration for the legalization of abortion in Sao Paulo, in 2018.NurPhoto / NurPhoto via Getty Images

A pregnancy at age 10 kills. This message, in the form of hashtag, has taken over Brazilian social networks in recent days, after the case of a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped came to light. The victim, who resides in the city of São Mateus, in the State of Espírito Santo, went to the hospital on August 8 accompanied by her aunt, who, according to the report of the Military Police, told the doctors that she believed she was pregnant. After a blood test confirmed that she was three months old, the girl told doctors and a social worker that her uncle had raped her since she was six years old and that she never said anything for fear of his death threats. The Police and the Guardianship Council investigated the case. The girl was transferred to a center for minors while doctors and the Justice analyzed the interruption of the pregnancy, guaranteed by law in cases like this.

A local newspaper announced this Saturday that the abortion was authorized by the Espírito Santo Court of Justice, an extreme that EL PAÍS has not been able to confirm. The summary secrecy that protects the process because it is a minor is the same that can limit attacks on the judge who made the decision. The issue of abortion in Brazil has always been a sensitive one, and it has become even more difficult to address with the growing advance of radical conservatives in politics.

“The Penal Code of 1940 already guarantees the right to abortion in these situations. There is no need for a legal analysis to be carried out, mainly because it is a situation that puts a life at risk, since the infant body is not prepared for pregnancy ”, explains Debora Diniz, anthropologist and professor of Law at the University from Brasilia and columnist for EL PAÍS in Brazil. According to Diniz, the questioning is due to the fact that “the question of abortion in Brazil is ideologized.”

These types of cases are pandemic: 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 April this year, a 10-year-old girl gave birth to a boy in a maternity hospital in Rio Branco, in the State of Acre, in northern Brazil. The pregnancy was discovered after a complaint made in September 2019 and the Justice investigated the father of the victim – who was found dead two days after delivery – and a neighbor.

“Theoretically, any girl under 14 who becomes pregnant has been a victim of rape, even if she says she consented to the sexual act, because the Criminal Code determines that sexual intercourse with a girl under 14 is considered rape of a vulnerable person and Due to their age, it is presumed that there is violence ”, explains Luciana Temer, president of the Liberta Institute, which acts against the sexual exploitation of minors. “The only thing that would justify the questioning is that the girl had expressed her desire not to have an abortion. In theory, the law guarantees that, immediately after filing the complaint at a police station, the victim can go to the hospital for an abortion. This girl is being the victim of another violation of rights, “he adds.

For Diniz, the case is a “clear example” of how the criminalization of abortion represents “a violation of the rights” of girls and women. “You have to be able to terminate this pregnancy safely, with the necessary post-abortion care,” she argues. According to the municipal secretary of Social Assistance of São Mateus, Marialva Broedel, the interruption of pregnancy depends on medical and judicial authorization, since the gestation is 12 weeks, the limit for legal abortion in Brazil. “We have to wait for the decision of the Judiciary, we cannot rush, for the life of the girl. We await the medical and legal criteria to make a decision with the family, ”said Broedel, adding that the girl is receiving psychological assistance and from an obstetrician.

The Espírito Santo Court of Justice reported, by means of a statement, that “it is governed by strict and technical compliance with the legislation, without any religious, philosophical, moral or any other influence other than the application of the rules. pertinent to the case ”. Last Wednesday, the judge ordered the preventive detention of the victim’s uncle, who is missing. According to the Secretariat of Social Assistance, the girl lived “with her grandparents” and received care at the Reference Center for Social Assistance of the São Mateus City Council. Family members participated in the activities of the center and there was no indication that the crime was being committed.

The Minister of Women follows the case

Since learning about the case, Damares Alves, Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights, has used social networks to say that she will “help” the victim and her family. On Wednesday, Alves, who is an evangelical pastor, sent a team of officials from the National Secretariat for Child and Adolescent Rights and the National Human Rights Ombudsman to meet with the São Mateus authorities.

“I have to see, read and even look at terrifying images. Some believe that I am used to it and that the news no longer affects me. On the contrary, each case is a life. Each story provokes in me the same reaction and always, through tears, I ask myself: how long? ”, The minister questioned in another Facebook post. “As I write these lines, there are children who are abused in Brazil,” he wrote. However, Alves did not mention the abortion to which the victim is entitled. The minister is against the interruption of pregnancy and has already spoken on several occasions “in favor of life” and against women who resort to the practice.

Diniz criticizes this position. “Ayuda is not a category of a democratic state of law that protects its citizens. What vulnerable people, like this girl, need are guarantees. This girl does not need ‘help’, but a legal and safe abortion ”, she says. The anthropologist recalls that, historically, the issue of abortion always comes up when governments go through delicate situations – such as the covid-19 pandemic – “to provoke a feeling of moral panic.”

“This case will be paradigmatic of the ideological use of abortion to elicit polarized and aggressive emotions and positions on what should simply be a matter of public health. In this specific case, there should be a criminal investigation of the aggressor and the health and dignity of this girl should be cared for and attended to, ”says the specialist.