This work is part of a regional series thanks to Mutante, Colombia. Let's Talk About Girls is produced with the support of the Latin American Consortium Against Unsafe Abortion (Clacai).
By Nathalie Iriarte V.
Bolivia is the country with the highest number of child and adolescent pregnancies in the region. In addition to the trauma of rape, girls suffer stigmatisation and re-victimisation in health centres. Meanwhile, the state does not consider psychological care as part of the health system and failures in the care of minors are present in all areas.
Carmen, an 11-year-old girl, hides hergrowing bellywith wide dresses. She is afraid her mother will throw her out of the house. She can't sleep, thinking that if she finds out, she'll hit her, shouting the same thing she used to say to her 14-year-old sister: "It's your fault for walking around in your towel in front of my husband". The girl is so scared that one afternoon she decides to climb the tallest tree she can find in her indigenous community in Pando and throws herself from there as if it were an accident. Her body, which weighs less than 40 kilos, crashes to the ground. She breaks her collarbone, hits her belly and her head. She is taken to the doctor. The diagnosis is that she has genital bleeding, but she is still pregnant. The plan doesn't work, the terror returns and the inevitable happens: she is thrown out of her house just like her sister for being pregnant by her father. Following a complaint from the medical staff, a legal file is opened and the girl goes to a home where she lives with other raped and pregnant girls. Months later, she undergoes a caesarean section. When she turned 18, she had to leave the nuns' home. Now no one, not even the nuns, knows what happened to her and her little son/brother.
2. Maria, a 13-year-old girl, is at the top of her class and loves science lessons. She dreams of becoming a doctor. Suddenly, her mother is called by the headmistress to tell her that the girl has been absent from school for days. Maria is reprimanded and punished for being "spoiled". Her moodiness, temper tantrums and lack of appetite are strange for this exemplary child who used to carry the flag for best student at school. Months later, the mother finds out: Maria was repeatedly abused by her stepfather and is pregnant. The girl drops out of school. Her promising future recedes month by month as her belly grows.
3. Cinthia is a 15-year-old girl who was sexually abused and has given birth to her rapist's child. She was treated at the Percy Boland Women's Hospital in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. There she suffered an episode of puerperal psychosis. This mental illness affects 2 out of every 1000 women after childbirth. She tried to hurt herself and her baby. She suffered severe hallucinations. She seemed possessed. This is one of the most severe forms of postpartum depression and is most common in victims of sexual violence or similar trauma.
And so on up to 19,938 stories.
In Bolivia, according to data from the National Health Information and Epidemiological Surveillance System (SNIS - VE), in the last five years almost 20,000 pregnancies have been registered in girls under 14 years of age. All of them are the result of sexual violence. In most cases, the minors have been re-victimised, judged and stigmatised by the justice and health personnel and by their environment. All of this takes a heavy toll on their mental health, but nobody seems to care.
Twenty-three per cent of Bolivian women between the ages of 10 and 19 are mothers. Every day, eight girls become pregnant. Every three hours, a girl suffers sexual violence. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Bolivia has the highest pregnancy rates among girls and adolescents in the region.
Full report in El Deber (link above).