Women’s Lack of Rights in El Salvador

The reasoning behind having an abortion varies. It can be due to rape, social reasons such as poverty or where the child of the pregnancy would have serious developmental problems. In general, social reasons in comparison to abortion for the sake of a mother’s health are viewed less favourably, however in El Salvador, abortion is not allowed under any circumstances and is a crime.

As result of this law, women and girls are denied human rights to which they should be entitled. The termination of a pregnancy can result in a jail sentence of up to eight years. On the other hand, one who has had a miscarriage can face up to 50 years in jail. This can be illustrated by many situations such as the experiences of María Teresa, who is serving a 40-year prison sentence for having a miscarriage. Beatriz nearly died because the government refused to let her terminate the pregnancy that was going to kill her. Liliana, who became pregnant after being raped by gang members when she was 13 years old, was forced by her government to give birth. It is important to note that the evidence provided for these cases is weak and often accompanied by unfair trials.

Abortion and miscarriages being treated as a crime has had a profound impact on women and girls in El Salvador, resulting in an above-average suicide rate. The figures in 2011 of the suicides rate according to the health ministry’s maternal death surveillance system showed that unwanted pregnancy held the third highest cause of maternal death.

Women and girls cannot be solely blamed for this occurring due to the lack of proper education on this matter. The government must ensure the provision of good education to all women and girls as well as providing safe and legal abortion procedures as mentioned. Abortion can be vital in many circumstances whereby the mother and child’s life can be at risk or at the very least severely affected.

Lawyer Dennis Munoz Estanley says the El Salvador legal system has an inbuilt “presumption of guilt” making it hard for women to prove their innocence. The UN has concluded the abortion ban has helped to institutionalise violence against women and girls. This ban is nothing but torture; it is highly emotionally and mentally distressing.  The torture can be exemplified a statement made by 27 year old Bessy Ramirez: “I would be terrified to go a public hospital as there is no benefit of doubt given to young women. We are presumed guilty and jailed.”

El Salvador’s ban on abortion and illegality of miscarriage is a serious human rights violation. Abortion and miscarriages must be decriminalised and all women and girls currently in jail as a result of the current draconian laws must be released in order allow them to resettle in life and recover from this traumatic event.

If you would like to support this cause to end the ban on abortion in El Salvador, you can sign this petition: https://campaigns.amnesty.org/campaigns/end-abortion-ban-el-salvador?linkId=9771210

Aila Zaib

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