Justice for Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz
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On July 6, in El Salvador, 19-year old rape victim Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder after having a stillbirth.
Hernandez, who at the time was 18, was in her third trimester, but hadn’t realized that she was pregnant. She had been repeatedly raped by a gang member over several months as part of a forced sexual relationship.
It is unconscionable that a teenager who was raped should be imprisoned for the stillbirth of the fetus of her abuser. Women who experience complications during pregnancy should be supported and given proper medical care, not prison sentences. An interrupted pregnancy is not murder. Women deserve the right to complete autonomy and control over their bodies and reproductive ability.
Cruz is not the first woman in El Salvador to be imprisoned for complications arising from pregnancy. Civil rights groups say 17 women in El Salvador have been wrongfully imprisoned for miscarriages. Countless more have been jailed for having abortions. In El Salvador, abortions are illegal under any circumstance, and miscarriages and stillbirths are treated as crimes. Women who are already lacking resources for reproductive health are treated like criminals when they seek medical assistance.
The imprisonment of Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, and other women in El Salvador who have been charged with murder for pregnancy complications, sends a chilling message to all women about how our human rights and dignity are viewed as less valuable than our ability to give birth. Women do not exist to bear children for men. We are complete humans worthy of respect. The value of our lives is not dependent on our reproductive functions.
We request the UN Council for Women take direct action to place pressure on the government of El Salvador to overturn this unjust verdict.
We also demand that the government end the cruel practice of imprisoning women for miscarriage, stillbirths, or abortion. We ask that the UN Council for Women take steps into addressing the draconian abortion laws enforced by the government of El Salvador, which does not allow abortion even in cases which threaten a woman's life.
We demand freedom and justice for Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz.
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