A ruling by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child for violating the rights of an indigenous Peruvian girl sets guidelines for States on therapeutic abortion.
A ruling by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child against Peru for the violation of the human rights of Camila* defined new protective and care measures for girls in similar situations.
This concerns an indigenous Peruvian girl who, after years of being raped by her father, became pregnant, was forced to continue the pregnancy, and was criminalized when she had a spontaneous abortion. This is the first international process ruled by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, and it becomes the third process of its kind in which Peru has been found responsible for violating the right to therapeutic abortion for girls and adolescents.
In addition to shedding light on the alarming reality of forced motherhood for girls in the region, the case brought global public attention to their revictimization due to the lack of education, access to services, and pedagogy, putting their health, well-being, education, and social development at serious risk.
Decisions for all states
The decisions issued this week by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child order states to take concrete measures to address this type of violation, guaranteeing access to reproductive health services, legal protection, and comprehensive support for girls in situations similar to that of "Camila."
The decision adds to the sanction imposed by Peru's National Health Superintendence against the hospital last February for denying therapeutic abortion to Camila. The punishment was not only monetary but also included comprehensive policies to ensure access to therapeutic abortion.
History of discrimination
According to the Committee's ruling, Camila was revictimized by health, police, and judicial authorities, as her request for an abortion was repeatedly ignored, her home and school were frequently invaded, and she was prosecuted for self-abortion. Therefore, the Committee considered that the girl was subjected to discrimination based on age, gender, ethnic origin, and social condition.
It also considered that Camila's lack of access to a safe abortion constituted differential treatment based on her gender, denying her access to an essential service for her health and punishing her for not conforming to gender stereotypes about her reproductive function.
Thus, the UN pointed out the Peruvian authorities for ignoring the risks to Camila's health and life by forcing her to continue the pregnancy. They not only failed to grant her therapeutic abortion, a legal procedure in Peru since 1924 but also revictimized her by accusing her of the crime of "self-abortion" when she had a spontaneous abortion weeks later.
The ruling urges the State of Peru and, by extension, all countries to decriminalize abortion in all cases of child pregnancy; ensure access to safe abortion services and post-abortion care for pregnant girls, particularly in cases of risk to the life and health of the mother, rape, or incest; amend regulations governing access to therapeutic abortion to provide a specific application for girls, ensuring due consideration for the special risk to health and life posed by child pregnancy.
Other measures include defining resources and penalties in cases of non-compliance with access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, instructing and training health and judicial personnel, including the Public Prosecutor's Office, in the rights protected by the Convention on therapeutic abortion; providing effective education and information on sexual and reproductive health to all children, including information and access to contraceptive methods, and implementing measures against the retraumatization of child victims through rapid and appropriate therapeutic interventions. The translation of the Committee's ruling into indigenous languages and its wide dissemination are also included.
"Son Niñas No Madres" Movement
"The resolution of Camila's case sets a precedent in the comprehensive interpretation of the rights to health and life of girls. It is essential to continue working on the promotion of policies and actions that provide protection, support, and justice to all victims of sexual abuse and forced pregnancy. From the "Son Niñas No Madres" Movement, we see with hope that this ruling will pave the way for the other survivors to obtain justice soon," said Marianny Sánchez, Latin America Communications Director of Planned Parenthood Global, one of the founding organizations of the movement, which led the litigation of Camila's case, as well as those of Fátima, Lucía, Norma, and Susana, presented before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2019.
Camila's case highlights the need to review and modify current legislation regarding abortion in Peru and other Latin American countries to protect the lives, health, and rights of girls and adolescents. It also emphasizes the urgency of implementing comprehensive policies on sexual education, prevention of abuse, and psychological support for victims.
*Camila was the name chosen by the UN to protect the identity of the violated girl.