news

Lina is 10, and pregnant to her stepfather. Her options are narrowing by the day.

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 physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture.”

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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Pointing out that Paraguay’s restrictive abortion laws are in violation of international law and risk the life of the child, he went on:

“Paraguay must step up to its responsibilities under international law… It is heart breaking to think of the horrifying ordeal this 10-year-old child has already suffered, to force her to continue with this unwanted pregnancy would be a further violation of her rights and will only prolong the horror.”

A group of national and international human rights organisations weighed in this week, declaring: “The government must work to ensure all options are available for a raped 10-year-old girl, including safe abortion services.”

A group of United Nations experts has backed the girl’s right to an abortion, announcing that the Government of Paraguay had failed in its responsibility to protect the sexual abuse survivor and provide her with a “safe and therapeutic” abortion.

The girl’s stepfather has now been arrested. According to local media reports, he has denied his guitly nad demanded a DNA test.

The girl’s stepfather has now been arrested. According to local media reports, he has denied his guilt and demanded a DNA test.

The girl’s mother has also been detained, and faces charges including breaching her duty of care, according to Amnesty International.

A special commission has now been set up to review the case with the purpose of assessing Lina’s condition — but it appears that unless Lina develops serious health complications, she will be forced to endure the unwanted pregnancy.

“She has no complications at all. If any complications appear, we will proceed based on that,” Director of healthcare programs at the ministry of public health and wellness, Lida Sosa said, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, the clock continues to tick.

With each minute, Lina’s chances of the medical procedure she needs get slimmer.

With each minute, her childhood ebbs away.

Related content:

A 10-year-old girl needs your help.

She was only 13. The judge said she was looking for a sexual encounter.

How you can help:

International legal advocacy group The Centre for Reproductive Rights is trying to fight the Paraguayan Government’s actions in court. It has also launched an online petition.

Amnesty International has also launched an online petition that has attracted more than 150,000 signatures.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Do you think Paraguay needs to update their abortion laws? 

00:00 / ???