Up to 30 years in prison for abortion in Bukeles El Salvador: “My rapist is out and I am a prisoner”

Lilian was arrested at the hospital where she had just given birth, and Alba was arrested at her baby’s funeral. They were accused of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison Prison in El Salvador, where abortions and obstetric emergencies are punished as crimes.

Lilian spent eight years behind bars and Alba ten. But her release following a review of the verdict is an incomplete victory for women in a country that insists on maintaining one of the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws.

“I had my normal baby but I suffered a rupture in my uterus. They gave me a sedative to perform a curettage. Three days after I woke up, I found out he had died,” Lilian, who only asked for her name, told Afp.

I was 20 years old with a two-year-old daughter, a partner and a job when this happened in November 2015 at the public hospital in Santa Ana, western El Salvador. “At first they accused me of abandonment and neglectbut the prosecution classified the crime as “aggravated murder” and I was convicted in May 2016. I thought my life was ruined forever,” she said.

He says he learned this a year ago His daughter died of neonatal sepsis: “If they had treated her in time, she wouldn’t have died. “I wouldn’t have lost so many years of my life in prison.”

With the help of the organizations Feminist Collective and Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, Lilian was released from prison in November and is the last of the 73 Salvadorans sentenced to prison terms of between 30 and 50 years for abortions or obstetric complications in the last decade to be released. .

“The world overwhelmed me”

Although everyone has their story, almost everyone These women are poor, have little education and come from rural areaswhere health care is precarious, explained Arturo Castellanos, a social worker for the citizens’ group.

Some were even raped, like Alba Lorena Rodríguez Raped by an acquaintance and became pregnant. She was 21 years old and had two young daughters. One day in December 2009, when she was five months pregnant, she felt severe pain. The birth took place in her modest home in a rural area in southwestern El Salvador.

“I had to give birth to him alone, I fainted, he fell and hit himself” told. The next day, a neighbor called the police and was arrested in the creature’s wake. As she says, she had neither a “fair trial” nor anyone to defend her. “I felt like my world was falling apart because I knew I wouldn’t see the girls and they were punishing me for something I didn’t do,” she said.

“The person who raped me was outside with his family and I was a prisoner. The law is pretty unfair“said Alba, who, like Lilian, preferred to speak to AFP in San Salvador, far from her neighborhood. “When they leave prison, they face discrimination and stigmatization in the community, and they need to reestablish family ties,” Castellanos explained.

For Lilian, “The hardest part” was missing his daughter’s childhoodwho left her in the care of her grandparents at the age of two: “I only saw her twice, I didn’t see her grow up.”

“My father died in 2012 and when I got out of prison in 2019 I realized My girls were already in school and my sister had died.“Alba summarized.

“The law remains the same”

Abortion is legal in Latin America Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba and Uruguay. With three reasons also in Chile.

El Salvador banned abortion without exception in 1998as well as Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But in none of them are the penalties so severe: the punishment is two to eight years in prison, but is often classified as “aggravated murder,” punishable by 30 to 50 years in prison.

Since 1998, abortions and obstetric emergencies for 199 women have been criminalized and although Lilian was the last to leave prisonThe citizens’ group said there is a risk of complaint proceedings against seven women, but they have not yet been imprisoned.

“They are found guilty in trials that are characterized by morality. Women continue to be criminalized. The law needs to be changed,” Castellanos said. But President Nayib Bukele, newly elected to another five-year term and with almost complete control of Congress, has spoken out against abortion.

Nobody can give me back the time I lost. I am rebuilding the bond with my daughter. I want to study and get ahead. I want to turn this page in my life and start from scratch,” Lilian said.

She is aware that there is a lot to do to ensure that other women do not suffer the same things as she experienced: “The law remains the same, the fight doesn’t stop yet”.

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