Nicaragua: 16,400 Girls under 14 Gave Birth in the Last Decade

Every day four girls are raped in Nicaragua according to statistics from Legal Medicine.  If they become pregnant, the State forces them to give birth.

By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto  (Confidencial)

Protest in Managua over violence against women and girls.

HAVANA TIMES – Over the last decade in Nicaragua, 16,400 girls under fourteen have given birth.  It’s a statistic that becomes even more alarming, when you consider that these births are all the product of rape.  The drama becomes even more complex in the face of a State that takes no action other than imposing obligatory maternity on these minors to the detriment of their health and welfare, although according to the Constitution, children’s well-being should be the higher interest.

The ten-year statistic amounts to 1,640 children having babies each year in Nicaragua. The figures come from the Legal Medicine institute, which also notes an average of four minors giving birth each day.  Very few people are ever legally processed as a result of this crime, even though article 168 of Nicaragua’s Penal Code establishes: “When the victim is under 14 years of age, the lack of consent should be presumed and, thus, a rape.”

“The statistics are alarming, grotesque,” said Mayte Ochoa, Ipas’ policy consultant in Central America. The organization recently published a research investigation entitled: “Pregnancy resulting from rape: girls under 14.” Through 15 cases of minors, the report sketches the panorama of sexual abuse and forced maternity in the country.

According to this document, violence in all its forms, sexual abuse and rape, child pregnancy and forced maternity together form an unattended and all-too-frequent multidimensional problem, with health, social, and legal implications.

“There are so many cases involving the crime of sexual violence that it could be called an undeclared epidemic,” the investigation assures.

The National Survey of Demographics and Health (ENDESA) from 2012 revealed that 8 of every 10 women with a history of rape reported that it had occurred before the age of eighteen.  Worse yet – half of those rapes happened before the age of 14.

Marta María Blandon, director of IPAS (International Pregnancy Advisory Service), which warns of the situation for girls and the State’s inaction.

Martha María Blandón, director of Ipas Central America explained on the television program “”Esta noche” [“Tonight”] that rape has numerous consequences, including lesions, prolonged harm to mental health, sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and unwanted pregnancy.

“A child of eleven who is carrying a baby in her womb can die,” Blandón emphasized, in reference to the high maternal mortality rate for children and adolescents documented by the World Health Organization.

The director of Ipas Central America assured that the characteristics of the abused girls who later become pregnant are defined by the extreme poverty they live in and the loss of their right to be children, as they must take on the chores of a household.  The abuser, generally, is a family member or acquaintance.

More current data from 2016 compiled by Legal Medicine reveals that in almost 80% of the cases of rape victims under fourteen, the abusers were “fathers, stepfathers, other family members or an acquaintance.”

Nicaragua has the greatest number of teen pregnancies in Latin America.  Another study prepared for the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (Funides) determined that three out of ten women have had a child before the age of 18.  Nonetheless, the research reveals that when the mothers are older than 14, such a pregnancy is generally the result of consensual sexual relations between adolescents who aren’t using contraception.

In the case of those under fourteen, the dynamic is different. “From a statistical point of view, the rapes and child pregnancies (between 10 and 14 years) may seem like only a small fraction,” the investigation of Ipas Central America puts forth. “But in the case of the child pregnancies, all or nearly all are the products of a rape perpetrated by adult males close to the girl.”

The State is noteworthy for its absence

The investigation of Ipas Central America was based on a qualitative and quantitative analysis of 15 girls under fourteen who had been raped. Half of them were pregnant while the others were not.  They also interviewed mothers, grandmothers and other family members to understand the impact of the rapes and the forced maternity.

For their research, they used the scarce data offered by the Health Ministry and the National Police, plus other tools such as psychological tests to evaluate the mental state of the victims.

The pregnant girls expressed the desire not to continue with gestation, according to Blandon.  “Nevertheless, no one offered them the possibility of interrupting their pregnancy and saving them from having to assume the role of an adult woman, nor did they offer them the possibility of adoption,” affirmed the director of Ipas Central America.

Given this, Mayte Ochoa, adviser on public policy for Ipas Central America, complains of the vacuum in support and the lack of State protection for the girls. Despite the existence of a written Model for Integral Attention to Victims of Gender Violence in Nicaragua, it has not been implemented in the different State offices.  Instead, she notes, the children are re-victimized by the authorities, who interview them time and time again to try to prove a rape; meanwhile the aggressor isn’t even questioned.

Ipas Central America also complains that the Ministry of the Family doesn’t fulfill its constitutionally established role of assuring the supreme well-being of the girls.  Instead, the logic is to impose maternity on them.  In many cases, the victims are moved to ministry shelters while they’re pregnant, and when they give birth they and the baby are returned home, the same place where their aggressor lives.

According to Ochoa, “justice becomes a utopia for these girls.”  According to the research, the most difficult thing for the girls and their mothers are the stigmas they face in the community, such as the loss of virginity, understood as that which determines a woman’s value.

Blandon said that in the tests administered to the victims they encountered indexes of depression that well surpassed the acceptable pathological limits. The girls “shut off their emotions in order not to suffer any more consequences from the mandate to become mothers.” “They pretend to docilely accept the reality, but many of them express suicidal ideas,” underlined the director of Ipas Central America.