Fathers rape with impunity, fuelling Guatemala's teen pregnancies: rights group

Fri Oct 2, 2015 2:25pm EDT
 
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By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Guatemala, most pregnancies among girls under 14 are the result of rape at the hands of fathers or other relatives, but often it is the girl who is forced to leave the family home, and few perpetrators are punished, said a leading rights campaigner.

Nearly a quarter of all births in Guatemala are among teenage mothers - one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Latin America.

"In the majority of cases of sexual violence against girls, some as young as 10, most are committed by family members, mainly by the girl's father or stepfather," said Mirna Montenegro, the head of Guatemala's Sexual and Reproductive Health Observatory (OSAR).

In 2012, nearly 90 percent of all pregnancies among Guatemalan girls under 14 involved relatives, including cousins and uncles, of which 30 percent were the result of rape by fathers, according to Guatemala's human rights ombudsman.

Despite new laws passed in Guatemala to better protect against sexual violence, few who commit rape against girls are punished.

"Getting justice for girls who report crimes of sexual violence is still a big challenge for us. Often it's the pregnant girl who is removed from her home and placed in a refuge and not the perpetrator of the crime," Montenegro told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

According to a 2009 law, sex with a child under 14 is defined as rape, but of the 2,000 reported cases of under-14s getting pregnant in 2012, only eight resulted in convictions, Montenegro said.

Guatemala's children's prosecutor, Harold Flores, said the country's high teen pregnancy rate was a "scourge", and there were few convictions for rape carried out on girls under 14.   Continued...