Today, a 16-year-old Peruvian rape survivor who suffered devastating consequences after being denied an abortion filed a human rights petition against her government before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The CEDAW Committee monitors states' compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. L.C., who wishes to remain anonymous, charges that Peru's failure to implement measures that guarantee a woman's ability to obtain essential reproductive health services in a timely manner, particularly legal abortion, not only violates the Peruvian Constitution, but international treaty obligations.
“Extreme human rights violations against women and girls, such as L.C., occur in Peru on a daily basis,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, regional manager and legal adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represents L.C. along with the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (PROMSEX). “As L.C.'s case illustrates, it is not enough to simply pass a law that permits access to abortion—-it is imperative that governments establish and enforce regulations that guarantee women are able to obtain those services and obtain them safely.”
In 2006, L.C., 13-years-old at the time, was repeatedly raped by a 34-year-old male who lived in her neighborhood, the district of Ventanilla, an impoverished section in the province of El Callao near the capital city of Lima. By 2007, she learned that she was pregnant. Desperate, L.C. attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of a building next door to her house. Neighbors discovered her and rushed her to the hospital. After examining her condition and diagnosing an immediate referral to realign her spine, doctors refused to provide her with urgent care arguing that they could not operate on L.C. because she was pregnant. Even though Peru allows abortion in cases where the mother's health and life are at risk, hospital officials failed to treat L.C. L.C. eventually suffered a miscarriage because of the severity of her injuries. Several weeks after the miscarriage, four months after she was told she needed surgery, L.C. did undergo the spinal procedure, but was told shortly thereafter that the surgery would have little to no effect and that she would remain paralyzed.
“What happened to L.C. is a travesty. Requiring a woman to carry a pregnancy to term when the pregnancy threatens her physical and mental health constitutes discrimination because it prioritizes her reproductive capacity over her health,” said Susana Chávez, director of PROMSEX. “As a medical procedure sought only by women, the denial of a timely abortion constitutes discrimination.”
In 2002, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a similar case against Peru before the U.N. Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). In 2005, that committee ruled against Peru for failing to protect K.L., a young woman who was forced by state officials to carry to term a pregnancy with fetal abnormalities incompatible with life. The UNHRC found that denying access to legal abortion violates women's most basic human rights and ordered Peru to adopt the necessary regulations to guarantee access to legal abortion. The government has failed to abide by the decision.
Among other remedies, L.C. is asking that the Peruvian government acknowledge the human rights violation; provide L.C. with reparations, including physical and mental rehabilitation; and issue necessary measures so that no other woman is denied her right to comprehensive health care and therapeutic abortion.