A week ago, news broke across the world of a 13-year-old Mexican girl, Citlatli, who was sexually assaulted and as a result, became pregnant. Authorities from the northern state of Sonora, where she lives, were refusing to perform a legal abortion (abortion of pregnancy resulting from rape is legal across Mexico). If only the public prosecutor had given her information about emergency contraception when she reported the rape, maybe this entire situation could have been avoided.
When I first heard about Citlali and that she lived in Sonora, I thought it was just a matter of time before authorities would assume their obligations and perform the abortion. Just last year, GIRE represented a girl, also pregnant as a result of rape, who was able to receive an abortion in Sonora using the Federal Law for Victims, which outlines government sexual assault response protocols and includes abortion for sexual assault survivors who need them. But for Citlali, the hours and days passed and the authorities did not change their position. At GIRE, we couldn’t believe what was happening. Then we learned about the justification – or excuse – being used to deny her access to abortion: the judge had reclassified her case, downgrading it from rape to sexual coercion, implying that consent had been given. Citlali was 13 at the time of the assault, constituting statutory rape and consent is impossible. Things went from bad to worse, and Citlali’s testimony was now being called into question.
GIRE contacted authorities on behalf of Citlali and her family to inform them that, according to the law, the judge’s classification of the crime is irrelevant. The law states that a positive pregnancy test and the testimony of the survivor are sufficient to authorize an abortion. Sonora authorities offered to pay for a plane ticket to Mexico City for the procedure to avoid having to perform an abortion in the state. How is that a response?
Despite having worked on human and reproductive rights for 15 years, I keep asking myself the same questions, shared by the whole GIRE team: Why do people react so bizarrely when dealing with the issue of abortion? Why do the emotions generated by this this issue supersede the outrage about the fact that a child was sexually assaulted? And how is the idea of forcing a girl into motherhood even a possibility? Would it be different if it were closer to home? A daughter, sister or niece, perhaps?
Every time we defend a case where a young girl, a child, is pregnant as a result of rape, these same questions come flooding back.
On Monday this week, GIRE met with authorities in Sonora. Citlali’s father participated to express both his and his daughter’s expectations in terms of reparations of damages for the human rights violations suffered. It was a positive meeting and the state authorities seemed open to complying with their demands. GIRE will be following up on the case to make sure that the state fulfills its promise and in addition we will also be presenting a legal stay against the state ministry of health for the abortion service denial.