A 20-year-old woman is going on trial in El Salvador and facing 20 years in prison on attempted murder charges after she gave birth to her rapist’s baby and then was accused of attempting an abortion.
Imelda Cortez was sexually abused by her stepfather for years. Since the age of 12, her stepfather, now 70, raped her repeatedly. Two years ago, he impregnated Cortez, who comes from a poor family in the rural town of San Miguel, according to The Guardian. Cortez, 18 at the time, said she had no idea she was pregnant. One day, her mother found her in extreme pain and bleeding profusely. Cortez had felt something come out of her when she went to the bathroom, but says she didn’t realize she’d given birth.
Her mother rushed Cortez to the hospital where doctors in the emergency room suspected an abortion had been attempted. They called police. Authorities later found the baby, a girl, alive. Cortez was jailed and accused of attempting to induce an abortion, which is not legal under any circumstance in El Salvador. She’s been in custody ever since and now her daughter is nearly 2 years old — and she’s never even been allowed to hold her baby girl.
Ella es Imelda, tiene 20 años y pasará un les más en prisión. No pudo tener su audiencia hoy gracias a una vaga justificación de la ausencia de la fiscal del caso. Suscribo nuevamente: no podemos permitirnos dejarlas solas. pic.twitter.com/BnfzyzWLTp
— Gaby Trigueros (@lagabyt) November 12, 2018
Cortez’s lawyer, Alejandra Romero, denounced authorities for criminalizing Cortez, a victim. “Imelda was repeatedly raped by her stepfather from the age of 11,” Romero said, The Independent reported. “DNA tests prove her child is the daughter of her stepfather. Yet Imelda is being treated as a criminal, not a victim of sexual violence.”
While Cortez was hospitalized, her step-father reportedly visited her and threatened that if she came forward about the sexual abuse, he would kill her. But DNA evidence revealed him as the father of the baby and he has now been arrested and charged with child rape.
Cortez appeared in court on Monday and the start of her trial was postponed until next month. She will remain in custody until then, and her case has put a spotlight on El Salvador’s strict abortion ban, which went into effect 21 years go.
Advocates and supporters have launched an online campaign calling for Cortez to be released from jail while awaiting trial. Using the hashtags #JusticeParaImelda and #SalveMosaImelda to promote the campaign on social media, supporters have collected more than 53,000 signatures and counting on a petition demanding that Cortez be freed. And new calls are being made for El Salvador to revise its abortion laws, even if only to allow abortions in the cases of rape or the mother’s life being in danger.