On April 28, 2021, with seven votes in favor and two against, the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court gave way to the decriminalization of abortion in case of rape. Judges Hernán Salgado Pesdamientos, Daniela Salazar, Ramiro Ávila, Karla Andrade, Agustín Grijalva, Alí Lozada and Enrique Herrería voted in favor of decriminalization, while judges Teresa Nuques and Carmen Corral ruled against it.
After accepting the action of unconstitutionality to article 150 of the current Criminal Law Code presented by three organizations of women and the defence of sexual and reproductive rights, the Court made the decision: the National Coalition of Women of Ecuador, Fundacion Desafío, and Mujeres con Vozs. These organizations established that the article above did not consider the various consequences suffered by women who are not disabled but who were victims of sexual violence. In addition, they questioned how Ecuador had ignored the recommendations of the United Nations (UN) about women’s human rights.
In Ecuador, it will no longer be feasible to penalize women who decide to abort if their pregnancy resulted from rape. In other words, if a raped woman decides to terminate her pregnancy voluntarily, she will not have to go to jail. It is also worth recognizing the hard work of different feminist collectives and human rights organizations that have spoken out defending the right of raped women to decide to interrupt their pregnancies without having to be imprisoned.
Undoubtedly, the decision of the Constitutional Court on the decriminalization of abortion in Ecuador represents essential advances both in terms of human rights in general and specifically in terms of women’s rights. This scenario constitutes a big moment for the country for several reasons. One of the biggest problems society still faces is a lack of information and misinformation. For example, believing in the decriminalization of abortion does not mean promoting it. Alternatively, you can be a woman who would never have considered an abortion and still understand the right that raped women have to access it if that is their decision.
It is similarly wrong to believe that the decriminalization of abortion for rape will increase abortions. On the contrary, thanks to this decision, now many clandestine abortions can now be avoided and the inherent medical complications that such procedures usually entail. It should be noted that scientific evidence has shown that the prohibition of abortion increases the risk of clandestine practices, which usually result in the death of the mother. Now, it will be possible for abused women to have access to legal abortion, thus avoiding the annual death of at least 2,700 girls in the country. Now, we finally have the hope that cases like Paola Guzmán Albarracín will not be repeated.
“On August 14, 2020, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against the Ecuadorian State in the case of Paola Guzmán Albarracín, an adolescent who was raped by the vice-rector of her school became pregnant, was forced to have an abortion. Paola’s case is a slap that reminded us as a society that girls and adolescents are raped and that the State does not take charge of that” (GK, 2020).
The teenage pregnancy rate in Ecuador is exceptionally high. The country has one of the worst figures in the entire Latin American region. In Ecuador, at least seven girls under the age of 14 become pregnant daily; most cases are raped girls. Likewise, the figure from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) should be taken into account; it determines that between 2010 and 2019, 67,532 babies were born to mothers whose ages ranged between 10 and 15 years.
A girl has the right to enjoy her childhood, grow up, and discover the world little by little. A girl should have the right to study, and she does not have to have to become a mother, especially if she is the product of rape. Sexual abuse constitutes a heinous crime, it leaves immeasurable physical and psychological consequences both in the short and long term. When a girl becomes a mother, she skips stages of development in her life, which will obviously have different psychological impacts on her. Furthermore, the scenario is even worse when the girls come from low-income families. Therefore, States should protect the physical and emotional health of women effectively.
“In an ideal world, it would be best if no girl suffered sexual or other violence. That is difficult, but at least abused girls will not be forced to be mothers”
– Virginia Gómez de la Torre, Director of the Desafío Foundation
For many women, being a mother is a blessing, a sublime stage. However, for sure, that will not be the experience of a raped woman. Therefore, it is fair that the decision of a raped woman to terminate her pregnancy does not have any judicial consequence. After an experience of such a traumatic and painful nature as rape, the minimum guarantee that the State must have towards women must be not to re-victimize them for their decision. Being a mother should be a responsible and desired decision, not an imposed obligation.
The Ecuadorian Constitutional Court decided to advance in recognition of the sexual and reproductive rights of victims of sexual violence. In this sense, the decriminalization of abortion for rape constitutes an indisputably necessary advance in terms of human rights. Today, Ecuador is a little less unfair and a little less violent for women, girls, and adolescents. Today, if a raped woman decides to terminate her pregnancy, she will no longer run the risk of being unfairly prosecuted. There is much pending work on women’s rights in the country. Therefore, the fight must continue. However, it must be recognized that the decriminalization of abortion in the event of rape in Ecuador constitutes a historical moment and is an unequivocal sign of progress in the country.
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