Guatemalan independent legislator Alejandra Carrillo presented a bill Friday, which would provide for comprehensive protection of girls who were victims of sexual assault. In 2018 alone, the Observatory of Sexual and Reproductive Health (OSAR) registered 1,535 pregnancies in girls between 10 and 14 years old.
Carrillo highlighted that the latest statistics reveal that between 2016 and 2018 6,391 babies were carried to term by girls between 10 and 14 years old.
“This is evidence of the strong impact sexual violence is having on girls,” she said.
“Regrettably in Guatemala we still don’t have a framework for the protection of girls victims of sexual violence and pregnant,” Carrillo added lamenting Congress confused two proposed bills “one on access to reproductive health, birth control, and sexual education, and another that guaranteed abortion for girls between 10 and 14 years old.”
In September, a bill that would have decriminalized abortions for rape victims under the age of 14 was rejected by Guatemala’s Congressional Women's Commission on technical and religious grounds.
The new bill proposed by Carrillo does not include the decriminalization of abortion, rather it establishes a Technical Intersectorial Secretariat responsible for formulating and implementing a plan for preventing pregnancies in children and teenagers and providing care to them.
If approved the law will also improve an information system that can be used to track cases of sexual violence. However, girls who became pregnant as a result of rape will still be forced to care their babies to term by the state.
Aside from the psychological burden, pregnancies in girls have been proven to negatively affect their health and their future possibilities to achieve economic independence and break the cycle of poverty and gender-based violence.
According to the United Nations Population Fund “pregnancy and birth are among the leading causes of death of teenagers in the developing world,” and pregnancy during childhood increases the risk of maternal mortality, obstetric fistula - a debilitating condition for girls that develops during childbirth and can lead to incontinence, depression, and isolation-, eclampsia, anemia, and post-partum hemorrhage.
Guatemala has some of Latin America's most restrictive abortion laws. It is only legal to have an abortion if the woman’s life is in grave danger. Having an illegal abortion is punishable with between one and three years of prison.