With Ban on Abortion, Honduran Women Forced to Give Birth After Rape

Fri May 17 2024
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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras: One day in November 2015, Fausia went to fetch water from a river near her home in rural Honduras. She was attacked by two men who beat and kicked her and put a knife to her neck.

One of the men raped her and Fausia – who does not want to give her real name for fear of retaliation – became pregnant.

Eight years later, the 34-year-old woman reported her country to the United Nations for refusing her an abortion, effectively forcing her to give birth to a child she did not want.

Honduras is one of six Latin American countries with an absolute ban on abortion.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CDR), an NGO supporting Fausia’s case, this has meant forced motherhood for countless women and girls – many of them survivors of sexual assault.

In March, Fausia took the case to the UN Human Rights Committee, seeking an order ordering the Honduran state to lift the ban in its constitution.

The daughter of a Nahua chieftain and land rights activist, Fausia said she was attacked in “reprisal” by two men whose family had usurped her father’s land and were locked in a years-long feud with him.

“They threatened me with death, they told me that if I go … report it or file a complaint with the police, they will kill me. They will kill my family,” she said while in the garden of the Center for Women’s Rights, an NGO that goes by its Spanish acronym CDM, in Tegucigalpa.

A month after the rape, Fausia said, she overcame her fear and reported the incident to authorities — the start of a painfully long legal journey.

When she learned that her abuser had gotten her pregnant, she felt like her world had come crashing down.

It was, she said, “a mental and emotional shock. . . . It was something I didn’t want, that I didn’t plan for.”

But when she sought help, Fausia said, she was warned that she would be prosecuted if she tried to abort the fetus, risking up to 10 years in prison.

“I cried in the delivery room. Then they forced me to feed her and kiss her (the baby) and I didn’t want that,” she said.

“If I had the option to end it (the pregnancy), I would because it’s something that turned my life upside down. It’s an indelible mark,” Fausia said.

She refuses to talk about what happened to the child.

Along with El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname, Honduras prohibits abortion even in the case of rape, malformation of the fetus or threat to the woman’s life.

The morning-after pill was banned in Honduras until last year, so it was not available to Fausia, who already had two children when she was attacked.

The threats and harassment that followed the attack forced her and her family to move ten times and eventually migrate to the city, she recalled through tears.

Fausia said she was so desperate that she once tried to hang herself.

She thought about suicide “a few times,” she said, “because of the rejection I felt, because of the pain.”

In 2017, her attackers were arrested, only to be freed a few months later. Investigators said there was a lack of evidence.

With the help of CDM and CDR, the case was reopened in 2018 and the perpetrators were found guilty eight years after the rape. The conviction can still be appealed.

According to CDR, citing Ministry of Health data from 2022, every day in Honduras three girls under the age of 14 are “forced to maintain a pregnancy as a result of rape and become mothers”.

Catalina Martinez, the NGO’s vice president for Latin America, said lawyers are demanding compensation for Fausia and her family and a public apology for the “human rights violations committed against her.”

They also want an order for Honduras to end its ban on abortion.

The case, which could have major implications for women’s reproductive rights in Latin America, could take three years to get through the U.N. committee, Martinez said.

In Latin America, elective abortion is legal in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba and Uruguay.

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