Nicaraguan Women Demand Their Rights In Face of Rampant Sexual Violence

June 18, 2011

By Tarah Demant, Women’s Human Rights Group Fairey for Amnesty International

Women and girls in Nicaragua are at risk.

In its most recent global report, Amnesty International reported on the high rates of violence against women and girls in Nicaragua, especially rape and sexual violence.  Such violence is rooted in a global culture of discrimination, which systematically devalues the lives, rights, and voices of women.

In Nicaragua, girls are especially vulnerable to rape and sexual violence.  Two thirds of rape victims are under 18, and the most common cases are for girls between the ages of 13 and 15.

Most young survivors of rape get little or no government support to rebuild their lives. The government has so far failed to fulfill its duty to prevent sexual abuse and provide care and support to survivors.

These devastating acts of sexual violence and rape are part of a broader trend of the devaluation of women and girls in Nicaragua.  Since 2008, the government has enforced a total abortion ban, criminalizing abortion in all circumstances; there are no exceptions for rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is at risk. For some women and girls made pregnant by rape, the idea of giving birth is unbearable.  But in Nicaragua, women don’t have a choice.

Survivors of rape and sexual abuse must be free to make their own decisions about how to manage the consequences of rape and begin to rebuild their lives. Rape must not be the event that defines the rest of their lives.

The government’s refusal to lift the total abortion ban, its refusal to increase steps to prevent sexual abuse and rape of women and girls, and its refusal to provide adequate care and support to survivors is a failure to ensure women and girl’s freedom from violence, freedom of autonomy, and freedom from discrimination, and it violates their fundamental human rights.  It represents a fundamental refusal to listen to the voices of women and girls.

In Nicaragua, those who speak out against such discrimination are at risk: women human rights defenders in Nicaragua working to promote women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights have been increasingly harassed by officials, showing the government’s refusal to hear the voices of women and girls.

Yet, despite these obstacles and risks of violence, the women of Nicaragua will not allow such violence and discrimination to silence them, and they are demanding their voices be heard.

Women and girls march in Nicaragua on September 28 to demand the repeal of the total abortion ban and an end to violence against women and girls.  You can join them by sending a message of solidarity through the online butterfly action.

As Martha Mangúi, Executive Coordinator of the Nicaraguan Alliance of women’s Centers, explained:

“The butterfly for us is a symbol of the desire to realize our dreams, spread our wings… fighting with strength for our rights.”

Together, we can help Nicaraguan women realize their dreams of freedom from violence and their full human rights!