Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Social and Religious Culture at Loggerheads?

"The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture."
"The Paraguayan authorities cannot sit idly by while this young rape-survivor is forced to endure more agony and torment."
Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International

"This girl became a uterus. She became a birth canal."
Esperanzaq Martinez, former Paraguayan health minister

"The country is divided in two."
"Some want to legalize abortion, the killing of an innocent who still is in a period of gestation. And for the other side, those who oppose that idea."
Msgr. Claudio Giminez, Paraguayan Roman Catholic cleric

"The pregnancy will not be interrupted. We've already completely ruled out abortion."
"The Justice Department will determine later who will have custody of the mother and child [after the birth]."
Antonio Barrios, Paraguayan health minister
People protest against child abuse, demanding stronger penalties for violators, in downtown Asuncion Paraguay (11 May 2015)
The case has sparked outrage in Paraguay and abroad

A child of ten. Unspeakably shameful. An anomaly, that some twisted psychopath chose to rape a ten year-old little girl? Obviously. What kind of corrupted mind would even begin to think of such a fundamentally loathsome thing? But, this is Paraguay where some 700 girls between ten and 14 years of age gave birth last year. In this country of 6.8 million people evidently gross indecency is not all that uncommon.

And so the country is locked in a moral disagreement of monumental proportions; one segment of the population, horrified by the ramifications of a ten year old child having been raped, become pregnant and having to undergo the trials of pregnancy and childbirth. A child herself giving birth to a child; if that is, she survives. Those who want to put an end to this child's nightmare insist that an abortion is required.

A staunchly Roman Catholic country, its religious morals mitigate against abortion for any reason other than to save the life of the mother, and since there are no guarantees that this child will be able to give birth without sustaining grave physical injury to herself, let alone survive the occurrence, the Church feels that to destroy the fetus is itself unthinkable and contrary to their religious commitment to preserve life.

The 10-year-old is staying at a Red Cross hospital in Asuncion.
The 10-year-old is staying at a Red Cross hospital in AsuncĂ­on. Photograph: Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images
A medical panel established to assess the child's mental and physical health felt that the ten-year-old is not prepared either mentally or physically to give birth. "That's why when her baby arrives, the justice system will have to set a guardian and tutors for both of them", advised Jose Orue, a prosecutor with jurisdiction in the city of Luque, located near the capital city of Asuncion.

Franca La Carrubba, a forensic psychologist, feels that with proper medical care the child might survive the physical part of the birth. "The aftermath of rape could remain when she becomes a teenager or an adult. It's the most common disorder in these cases." Twenty-eight minors died in Paraguay last year as a result of complications during childbirth. Another fourteen died of botched abortions.

The little girl's mother took her to hospital on April 21, ostensibly suffering from abdominal pains. Her mother is said to have imagined the child might have a tumour. A medical examination revealed the girl was in her 22nd week of pregnancy. Whereupon the mother informed authorities that her daughter must have been raped by her husband, the child's stepfather.

Gilberto Benitez, 42, was nowhere to be found, and a manhunt was launched for him. And the little girls' mother demanded an abortion for her daughter. In response the authorities have refused, insisting that a girl in good health could safely give birth; that a late-term abortion would itself be a risky undertaking. In a country where abortions are anathema to god.

"I will do any (paternity) test to show it wasn't me", insisted Gilberto Benitez, whom authorities managed to finally apprehend. "I've been with tons of women, and I never got anybody pregnant", he said. He didn't say, unfortunately, that he would never have stooped so low as to rape a child. But of course, his insistence on his innocence does require that a genetic test be performed.

Not that the results would un-impregnate a ten-year-old girl. Let alone make her experience of having been raped disappear.

As though that isn't sufficiently sad and sordid in and of itself, the mother of the girl is also now in prison, having been accused of enabling her daughter's abuse, as is the girl's stepfather, accused of raping the child.

Should the birth proceed as it appears it will, both the ten-year-old and the ensuing child born of rape will become wards of the state.

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