A young girl who was raped by her father and became pregnant should have received abortion information and access, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child told Peru last week.
The girl, identified by the pseudonym Camila, was first raped by her father when she was nine years old and was continuously abused until she became pregnant in 2017 at the age of 13. The teachers at Camila’s school told her mother that she seemed isolated and depressed and had missed class. Camila then told her mother that she had not menstruated for two months, who had her take a rapid pregnancy test which came back positive. After the pregnancy was confirmed at a private clinic, Camila revealed to her mother and godmother that her father had raped her.
Days later, Camila again claimed she was raped by her father to workers at a health clinic in Huanipaca. She was taken to Guillermo Díaz de la Vega Hospital in Abancay where she tearfully told hospital staff that she did not want to have her father’s child. She was not told of her right to an abortion.
Camila reiterated to hospital staff during a check-up the following week that she did not wish to have her father’s baby. Instead of advising her of her right to an abortion, hospital workers ordered an ultrasound. Crying “uncontrollably,” she was taken back to the health clinic the following month where she reiterated for the third time that she did not want to have her father’s baby. Hospital staff responded by telling her about the importance of a proper diet during pregnancy.
Camila became suicidal when health workers visited her home and advised her of a proposed birth plan for the fetus – which led her mother to petition Peru’s Health Ministry for permission for a voluntary abortion, consistent with the laws of the country. She never heard back about her petition. Camila’s mother simultaneously petitioned the prosecutor in charge of criminal investigations of rape to intervene and also did not receive a response from that petition.
The girl was hospitalised the following week for severe abdominal pain and given medication to prevent miscarriage, despite her wishes not to give birth to her father’s baby, but her condition worsened and she ultimately had emergency surgery to remove the fetus.
Instead of disposing of the fetal remains, the hospital sent them to Camila’s godmother, who buried them under the patio of her home. Health clinic workers who were not advised of the emergency procedure, harassed the girl at her home for days until police intervened and blamed the girl for the miscarriage.
Camila filed a complaint with Peru’s Health Ministry in March 2018, requesting a resolution to the ordeal she had endured. Nearly a year later, her case had still not been resolved and she requested a final ruling on her complaint from the Health Ministry. Only then did the Health Ministry determine that the hospital had failed to comply with legal requirements to convene a board to evaluate her wishes for an abortion. The Ministry also found that the Huanipaca clinic failed to comply with standards for high-risk pregnancy care for girls.
However, the Health Ministry also found that Camila had not sufficiently proven that medical workers were responsible for not having informed her about her right to a legal abortion or were responsible for breaching her privacy by requesting police intervention.
Hence, at the age of 18, Camila brought her case before the UN Committee, because her rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been violated.
Abortion is criminalised in Peru except to prevent a risk to the life or a severe and permanent threat to health of the girl or woman. The UN Committee officials were informed of Camila’s “re-victimisation” by national authorities, who prosecuted and convicted her for the crime of self-abortion after she had had a miscarriage.
After her miscarriage, prosecutors had sent a social worker to interview hospital staff about her miscarriage for an investigation. The prosecutor, during the investigation, even asked for the fetal remains to be exhumed. She was convicted of self-abortion because she had said while pregnant that she wanted to end the pregnancy. She appealed the conviction, which was overturned in June 2019.
Her father later claimed that Camila was not his daughter and that she had agreed to sexual relations with him, but he was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay her $14,000 dollars in restitution.
The UN Committee has since asked Peru to decriminalise abortion in all cases of child pregnancy and to ensure safe post-abortion care for pregnant children, particularly in cases of rape and incest.
SOURCE: UPI, by Adam Schrader, 18 June 2023 ; Photo courtesy of the hospital, on Facebook