Amnesty International (AI) Wednesday launched an alert in the light of an increasing number of child pregnancies all across Paraguay, which has reached epidemic levels, it was reported.
Experts believe these pregnancies are the result of increasing sexual abuse against girls, coupled with restrictive local laws on abortion.
At least 1,000 girls aged 14 and younger gave birth in the country between 2019 and 2020, the AI report showed, while more than 12,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in 2019.
The document has been headed They are girls, not mothers, in an attempt to underscore the crisis of sexual violence against girls, while pressing for less restrictive laws on abortion, which in Paraguay are among the most extreme in the region, with the procedure criminalized in almost all circumstances, except when the life of the mother is in danger.
Paraguay has one of the highest infant and adolescent pregnancy rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Preterm labor can present significant health risks. Girls under 15 are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, according to the Latin American Consortium Against Unsafe Abortion.
Girls and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 represent one in ten maternal deaths nationwide, as well as 13% of maternal deaths caused by unsafe abortions, according to AI.
Paraguay passed a law in 2018 to prevent sexual abuse and guarantee comprehensive care for children and adolescents who are survivors of sexual abuse. However, the AI report shows the implementation of the law is insufficient, due to gaps in the protection of young people, such as the absence of adequate public policies and the lack of compliance with existing laws to prevent abuses and provide redress when they occur.
By action and omission, Paraguay is turning its back on its girls and adolescents who are facing unimaginable abuse, said AI Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas. “Girls have the right to a life free from violence. Forcing someone to continue with a pregnancy, especially when it is the result of rape, is a form of mistreatment that can be considered torture,” she went on.
In 2019 alone, the country's State Attorney received an average of 12 complaints of sexual violence against girls and adolescents daily, which in some cases resulted in pregnancies, according to the report.
Paraguay's restrictive stance on abortion has drawn international attention before. In 2015, an 11-year-old girl gave birth after the Paraguayan authorities denied her an abortion. The girl had become pregnant with her stepfather at the age of 10.