The clock is ticking.
What were you doing when you were 10?
I was collecting Goosebump books, watching ABC Kids and playing Marco Polo.
What about you? Making daisy chains? Creating sticker books? Getting mud on your light-up trainers? Learning somersaults on the trampoline?
At this moment, a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay is having a very different experience. Her world is rapidly closing in on her, and her options are narrowing by the day.
The little girl — let’s call her Lina — has already endured an experience no human should have to bear: She was raped, allegedly by her 42-year-old stepfather. And as if that memory alone wasn’t enough, Lina was rushed to hospital with abdominal pain on 21 April.
There, she discovered the assault had left her pregnant.
It’s May 12 now, and the girl’s belly is growing by the day. At 22 weeks pregnant now, she must be sporting an unfamiliar bump under her pre-teen clothing.
According to international media reports, Lina is clear on what she wants: an abortion. Her mother also wants her to have the procedure, which would enable her to return to school from the Red Cross shelter in which she currently resides.
But she’s being denied the procedure because Catholic Paraguay’s strict reproductive laws mean that unless she develops complications that would put her life at risk, an abortion is illegal.
Even though this little girl’s mother is pleading for her daughter to have access to the service.
Even because this little girl – who should be playing with her friends in the street instead of facing the prospect of motherhood – is likely to suffer potentially debilitating risks from bearing a child when she’s still a child herself. Those risks include anaemia, postpartum haemorrhage and a range of mental disorders, according to the World Health Organisation.
The case has resulted in outrage from human rights and feminist groups, who believe that Lina’s age and the circumstances of the conception mean that that giving birth would result in severe psychological trauma.
“The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture,” Amnesty International’s Americas Deputy Director Guadalupe Marengo said.
“The world is now watching Paraguay. We are calling on authorities there to show humanity and respect the dignity and wishes of this young girl and her mother.”