Salvadoran women imprisoned for miscarriages and stillbirths

Linda Cooper


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In a jarring sense of justice, in a country of contradictions, Salvadoran military officers who butchered thousands of infants and children walk free under an amnesty law, while Salvadoran women are imprisoned for suffering miscarriages and stillbirths.

Amnesty International has highlighted the story of one of them, Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez, who was given a 30-year prison sentence for homicide after she became pregnant at 17 from a rape and suffered a miscarriage. After serving seven years, she was recently granted a pardon when her attorney showed that her due process had been violated.

Vasquez is one of 17 women, known as the "Las 17," who were convicted of similar charges and incarcerated at the grossly overcrowded Ilopango prison near San Salvador.

Related: Violence, culture of impunity still plague El Salvador by Linda Cooper and James Hodge

Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch and a former Maryknoll priest, recently met with five of them. "Some of the women in our delegation were so upset by what they heard that they broke down," he said.

"The prison is so overcrowded that the women have to sleep on the floor. The food is lousy. The water is severely rationed," he said. "What all of them had in common was that they're very poor and very malnourished. Two of the five cannot read or write. Two were raped. They had miscarriages, were bleeding and went to a hospital where conservative male doctors accused them of having an abortion. They lost consciousness from loss of blood and woke handcuffed to a bed. They ended up with 30-year sentences."

It's an outrage, he said, especially since well-known torturers and assassins are roaming free.

A version of this story appeared in the May 22-June 4, 2015 print issue under the headline: Women imprisoned for miscarriages and stillbirths.

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