Bolivia: Help stop child sexual abuse - Equality Now

Help stop child sexual abuse in Bolivia!

Bolivia has one of the highest rates of sexual violence against women and children in South America, but one of the lowest reporting rates. We’re fighting for justice for Brisa and other women and girls who have been sexually abused and we need your help!

When Brisa was 15 years old, an adult cousin came to live with her and her family and immediately began to isolate her. Over time he started raping her, and used more violence to keep her silent. He blamed her for the abuse, beat her, threatened to rape her sisters, and tortured her pets while making her watch. Brisa attempted suicide twice and did everything she could to push her family away in the belief that it would keep them safe. Finally, after eight months, Brisa’s family discovered the abuse and reported it to the police. But Brisa’s nightmare didn’t end there.

She was re-victimized by medical personnel during her numerous physical exams, by the prosecutor during the investigation, and by judges who questioned her about her sexual history during the trial. In one instance, a judge even implied that she could not have been raped because she had not screamed! Although Brisa had originally brought a case against her cousin for rape, the judge used his discretion to charge him with estupro -- damaging legislation that imposes lesser penalties for the rape of an adolescent girl than of a young girl or adult woman. Not obtaining justice in Bolivia, Brisa got her law degree and took her case all the way to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). However, fifteen years after she first reported the abuse, Brisa’s abuser has still not been brought to justice.

To help ensure that other children did not have to endure what she experienced, she founded A Breeze of Hope (Fundación Una Brisa de Esperanza) at age 17. However, cases of sexual abuse of very young children continue in overwhelming numbers. According to a report presented by Bolivia’s Ombudsman, in the first half of 2015 alone, there were 569 reported cases of sexual violence against minors; 94% of them were against young or adolescent girls. This directly contradicts Bolivia’s many international commitments to ensure women and girls are free from sexual violence.

Equality Now has joined with Brisa, A Breeze of Hope, the Human Rights Advocacy and Litigation Clinic at Rutgers Law School and the law firm of Hughes Hubbard & Reed to pursue litigation and advocacy in support of Bolivia’s girls.

In March 2017, we held a thematic hearing on sexual abuse with the Government of Bolivia at the IACHR. Bolivia pledged to work with us to amend its penal code and a process was started to approve a new set of laws that would have incorporated some of our recommendations, but unfortunately, it has not been approved. The estupro article remains in place, as does the requirement for sexual assault survivors to prove intimidation or physical or psychological violence. Nor is there any definition of consent in the law.

Brisa’s case is now before the IACHR for consideration, where the Commission is considering the merits of her case and whether or not they will refer her case to the Inter- American Court of Human Rights which is responsible for making a final ruling on the facts and law relating to her case.

In addition to the legal case, for the last few years, Equality Now has supported the Breeze of Hope Foundation and the Network of Girls, Boys and Adolescents Against Sexual Violence, for them to be the ones advocating at the national level for access to justice for themselves as survivors of sexual violence, and for the rest of the girls in the country. To broaden this effort, Equality Now recently convened various human rights organizations in Bolivia to create a coalition to push for changes in law, implementation of protocols, and for services to allow survivors to live safely and in peace.

TAKE ACTION! Right now the government is reforming its rape and sexual abuse laws. Help us make sure that Bolivia follows through on its promises and obligations to its women and girls! 
Please join our collective call on Bolivia to:

  • Define rape as based on lack of consent and including all forms of non-consensual penetration;
  • Eliminate the requirement that survivors prove “intimidation, physical violence, or psychological violence”;
  • Apply international and regional human rights standards on consent;
  • Repeal the estupro provision, legislation which is used to allow rapists to avoid conviction in cases where the victim is 14-17 years old; and
  • Provide clear guidelines on what acts constitute sexual abuse.

Thank you for your support!

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