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Girls, rape and abortion: the victim’s rights

In September 2019, the thirteenth Public Safety Annual Report released in Brazil registered a record number of sexual abuse cases in the country. The number of victims totalled 66,000, with the majority (53.8%) being girls under the age of 13.


Osvaldo Cardosa


According to the statistics from the secretaries of Public Safety across all states and the Federal District, four girls under the age of 13 are raped every hour in Brazil. On average, 180 rapes occur each day, which is 4.1% higher than in 2017.

In accordance with Cristina Neme, researcher at the Brazilian Forum for Public Safety, the abuser profile is typically a person close to the victim, often a family member, such as their father, grandfather, uncle or stepfather. This data was also identified in other editions of the annual report.

In eight out of every 10 rape cases, the victims are women and girls, and in the remaining two, the victims are boys and men. The majority of women who are raped (50.9%) are black.

The case of a 10 year old girl who was raped by her uncle for four years caused a huge uproar on social media in Brazil, once more igniting the controversial debate about aborting pregnancies that result from rape. Traumatised by the experience, the victim revealed that she had been threatened by her relative, a 33 year old man, since she was 6 years old. She had never told anyone for fear of retaliation.

At present, the man’s whereabouts are unknown, and the situation came to the public’s attention after the girl fell ill and was admitted to hospital, where her pregnancy was discovered.

The Civil Police accuse the abuser of the crimes of threatening and raping a vulnerable person. It is also worrying that the girl was forced to seek help outside of her area (in the state of Espírito Santo, southeast Brazil) to receive access to an abortion, despite it being legally authorised.

This was due to the face that the medical team at the Assistance Programme for Victims of Sexual Violence (Pavivi) in the hospital in Vitória, the state capital, declared technical issues as a basis to refuse to carry out the procedure.

The team alleged that the victim’s pregnancy was already too advanced, and as a result, was not supported by law. They seemingly ignored the approval of judge Antônio Moreira, who was the legal authority on the matter.

The judge in question responded to a request from the Public Ministry of Espírito Santo. In his decision, he addresses the victim’s gestational age and authorises the abortion based on the Technical Norm for Humane Abortion published in 2005 in the Ministry of Health, which states that “abortion later than 20-22 weeks is legitimate and legal in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape, in case of risk of anencephaly, and when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.”

According to the G1 news portal, the victim was 22 weeks and four days pregnant at the time.

In the court decision, one of the professionals who attended the girl highlighted her desire not to go through with the pregnancy, concluding that “the girl’s will is sovereign, even if powerless.”

With the support of the Prosecutor’s Office for Childhood and Youth of the municipality Sao Mateus and the State Health Secretary, the victim was transferred to a medical centre in another state to end the pregnancy, accompanied by her grandmother. For now, the location is being kept secret by the authorities.

In accordance with Brazilian law, minors have the right to a legal abortion after being a victim of sexual violence or if there is risk of maternal death.

Specialists in criminal law, consulted by G1, confirm that the time of pregnancy makes no difference from a legal perspective, and defend the victim’s right to an abortion, including in order to recover from the psychological damage caused by the abuse. (PL)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: Photos: Pixabay

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