Forced Pregnancy - Equality Now
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Forced Pregnancy

Forced pregnancy, including forced pregnancy of young girls, is a problem across Latin America. Forced pregnancy is defined as when a woman or girl becomes pregnant without having sought or desired it, and abortion is denied, hindered, delayed or made difficult.

What is forced pregnancy? 

Forced pregnancy is defined as when a woman or girl becomes pregnant without having sought or desired it, and abortion is denied, hindered, delayed or made difficult.

Some of these pregnancies are caused by a lack of sexual education, access to contraception, or mistake, but many of them, especially among young girls, are caused by sexual violence, often perpetrated by relatives or acquaintances.

When abortion is illegal or inaccessible, often young girls’ lives are at risk through clandestine abortions or having give birth. Being so young, most are neither physically nor emotionally mature enough to carry a pregnancy to full term, give birth, or become mothers. And yet, without access to safe and legal abortion, they are forced to do so, compounding the harm from the sexual violence they’ve already suffered.

Pregnancy should be a freely made choice by an adult, not the result of sexual violence against a young girl.

What does international law say?

Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará obliges states parties to “Condemn all forms of violence against women and agree to pursue, by all appropriate means and without delay, policies to prevent, punish and eradicate such violence “and also to” exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women." Therefore, the Committee of Experts, through the “Declaration on Violence against Women and Adolescents and Sexual and Reproductive Rights” issued in 2014, has recommended that States ensure sexual and reproductive health of women and their right to life, eliminating unsafe abortion and establishing laws and policies that allow abortion.

The Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child has cataloged forced pregnancy as a harmful practice that gravely affects the rights of girls.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has recognized that denial of abortion in cases of rape inflicts such psychological and physical trauma that it can amount to torture under international law.

What is Equality Now doing to end forced pregnancy? 

With our local and regional partners Equality Now is working to raise awareness around the issue of forced child pregnancy in Latin America. We are pushing states to legally permit abortion, most urgently in cases of sexual violence against minors as well as engaging in strategic litigation before national and regional human rights bodies. Additionally, we are urging governments to track statistics of girls younger than 15 years-old who are forced to give birth. This will support our demands for public policies establishing adequate means and services to eradicate sexual violence against girls and forced child pregnancy including sexual education and access to safe and legal abortion.