A 21-year-old rape victim suspected of having an abortion has been acquitted of homicide during a retrial case in El Salvador.
The Guardian reports that 21-year-old Evelyn Beatriz Hernández was raped by a suspected gang member in 2016 when she was 18 and at the time, had no idea she had become pregnant. She testified that around 32 weeks after the rape, she began to have extreme pains in her abdomen and ended up having a stillborn baby in an outdoor toilet. The infant was later found in a septic tank.
Hernández said she “felt something come loose inside her,” but didn’t realize she was giving birth. Her mother later found her passed out by the toilet and brought her to the hospital.
Authorities arrested Hernández and charged her with homicide, despite objections that she had no idea she was pregnant. Forensics experts were unable to determine whether the baby died during pregnancy or in the septic tank. El Salvador is one of the few countries in Central America that has a total abortion ban, and Hernández ended up sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Hernández had already served almost three years behind bars when the conviction was overturned for lack of evidence.
The retrial was the first of its kind in Central America.
“This is a resounding victory for the rights of women in El Salvador. It reaffirms that no woman should be wrongly accused of homicide for the simple fact of suffering an obstetric emergency,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, director for America’s Amnesty International, said.
Guevara-Rosas added that she hopes El Salvador will stop “criminalizing women once and for all by immediately revoking the nation’s draconian anti-abortion laws.”
An obviously relieved Hernández said “thank God, justice was done” after the verdict announcement.
“There are so many women who are still locked up,” Hernández continued. “I call for them to be freed soon too.
According to KIRO 7, El Salvador is a profoundly religious country and most of its residents identify as either Catholic or evangelical Christian. The outlet reports that “macho attitudes on women’s role in society” is widely accepted in the country.
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[Feature Photo: Evelyn Beatriz Hernández via AP/Salvador Melendez