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Nicaragua: authorities fail to tackle high levels of rape and sexual violence

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Nicaragua: authorities fail to tackle high levels of rape and sexual violence*

By Amnesty International

Authorities in Nicaragua have done little to combat the massive levels of sexual violence against girls across Nicaragua and negative social attitudes inhibit the survivors from speaking out about their ordeal, said Amnesty International in a major new report published today (25th November 2010).

The report – entitled Listen to their voice and act: stop the rape and sexual abuse of girls in Nicaragua – documents how barriers to justice and recovery services result in rape survivors not being able to rebuild their lives after sexual violence.

The level of rape and sexual violence against girls in Nicaragua is disturbingly high. According to official statistics, more than 14,000 cases were reported between 1998 and 2008. Two thirds of the victims were under the age of 17. These figures are all the more alarming given that in Nicaragua, rape and sexual abuse are under-reported crimes especially if they include acts of incest.
 
Amnesty International’s Researcher for Nicaragua, Esther Major said:

“Every day girls in Nicaragua are suffering the horror of sexual violence in silence, rather than risk the rejection that many suffer when they speak out.

“The government must send a clear message that sexual violence is never the fault of the victim; that perpetrators will be brought to justice and that survivors will be given the support they need to heal.”

Sex is treated as a taboo subject in Nicaragua and survivors of sexual abuse are often stigmatised by authorities and society alike.  Relatives and people in a position of power are the most commonly reported perpetrators of this type of abuse in Nicaragua, and many girls are put under pressure to keep silent.

One young woman told Amnesty International that she was 17 when she was raped by a member of her family and later became pregnant.  Several people, including the local priest, pressured the teenager not to file a complaint and to give the baby up for adoption.

In another instance, a mother was sentenced to 12 years in prison for being complicit in the crime of sexual violence.  The mother went to report the case to the police after her daughter had been repeatedly raped by her partner (the girl’s step father). The police arrested the mother for not reporting the violation earlier and she was sentenced to 12 years. Meanwhile no efforts were made to detain the perpetrator and he remained at large while the mother was in prison.

Despite there being protocols for the judiciary and police authorities to follow for treating survivors of sexual violence, authorities in Nicaragua regularly disregard these principles in practice.  Many Nicaraguan girls struggle to cover the costs of travelling to and from court or hospital appointments.

Esther Major added:

“Nicaraguan justice should serve all people – not just those with money and power.  Too many girls are dropping out of school, giving up on work or even attempting suicide. They need to be supported to leave behind the traumas of their childhood.”

The trauma of sexual violence for thousands of girls in Nicaragua is exacerbated by the current law in Nicaragua which criminalises all abortions.  This has serious consequences for survivors of rape who do not wish to continue with their pregnancy.

The law now compels women and girls – under threat of imprisonment – to continue with their pregnancy after being raped, even if the pregnancy poses a risk to her life or health.

Esther Major said:

“Young victims of rape and sexual abuse demand that their right to be free from sexual violence is protected by the Nicaraguan government, and that they are supported so they can overcome the physical and psychological trauma caused by such acts of violence.

“We’re asking the Nicaraguan government to put an end to sexual violence and ensure that it does not become the event that defines the rest of a survivor’s life.”

SOURCE: amnesty.org.uk  

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