Almost four years ago, eight men raped an indigenous girl in a rural setting in the province of Salta, in the north of Argentina. The victim, of the Wichí ethnic group, was then 12 years old, had an evident maturational delay and lived in poverty. The attack went unnoticed until six months later, when the minor, pregnant with a fetus without life expectancy, went through a cesarean in critical conditions. The case became a icon of the struggle for legal abortion, at a time when the issue was not yet on the political agenda of the South American country. On Tuesday, the defendants sat in front of the court that must judge them.
On November 28, 2015, A.M.S. -Initials of the girl-, he did not return home. Her family found her a day later on a village soccer field, unconscious. According to witnesses, she was trapped when she was with some friends and dragged to an area of bushes, where she was raped by a group of males. Everything happened in Alto de la Sierra, a lost town in the mountains, near the border with Bolivia and Paraguay, where about two thousand inhabitants live, 60% of them of Wichí and Chorote origin. They all manage as they can with what little there is, between the hostility of the climate and the indifference of the State. To travel the 480 kilometers that separate Alto de la Sierra from the capital of the province takes more than ten hours, if it does not rain. Its inhabitants endure temperatures of up to 50 degrees and many live in mud farms, 70 kilometers from the first asphalt. And in another time.
Mount in there is not always a doctor or ambulance. A lot less kits for emergencies, pregnancy tests or information in the languages of the original communities that populate the region. For the wichís it was a real ordeal to see the violation, to get the justice to listen to the girl in her mother tongue and "to bring down the territory", as they say, to some deputies. The challenge was to interest the policy in the case.
In Alto de la Sierra, animals are raised and handicrafts made with palo santo and chaguar fiber are made. The people only have an Internet signal at school – it came through a foundation – and at the police station. In 2017, the hospital bathrooms spent one year without water. It was there that a journalist recorded that a Wichí teenager spent the days locked in a homemade cage, without attention for a mental disability. The dissemination of the video reached the national media.
The beginning of the trial tensed a community in which everyone knows each other. Nicasio and Francisca, parents of the girl, were the first to be summoned by the judges of Tartagal, the city where the hearings are held. They traveled 300 kilometers to witness through an interpreter. In that same city, the eight accused of "sexual abuse with carnal access qualified by the number of authors" are waiting for prisoners. The prosecutors in charge of the investigation considered proven that the accused used the violence and the psychic and physical conditions of the girl to attack her in a group. On February 28 will be the sentence, which can reach up to 20 years in prison for each detainee.
Julio Díaz is the president of the Chofway community, to which the girl's family belongs. "We here have full knowledge that it was a violation and we expect justice. We want to trust in justice, "he says by telephone. The trial adds tensions. Sandra Pisco, a Wichí-Spanish interpreter, said she was threatened by "the people of the detainees." "They know where I live. I feel fear for myself and my family. I feel alone in this, "he complains.
#Justicia by Juana
As the judges hear the versions of almost 70 witnesses, the story of a girl's pregnancy will be heard again in the room. After the rape, his days continued in the greatest of homelessness. In social networks, the campaign "#Justicia por Juana", for the name they gave to the child, reported that the case was covered by law for one of the assumptions of non-punishable abortion. But in June 2016, a medical board decided to practice a cesarean section in the Maternal and Child hospital in Salta. The fetus had a terminal pathology and died right away.
In Salta, moreover, one of the protocols for the most restrictive sexual violence victims in the country was in effect. According to that local guide, ordered by the governor Juan Manuel Urtubey contrary to national laws, abortion could be requested only until the 12th week of gestation. In Salta, a very strong Catholic imprint (only last year he stopped governing the religious curriculum for elementary school) goes hand in hand with the conscientious objection of many doctors.
Next to the case of "Bethlehem", a young Tucuman imprisoned after going through a miscarriage, the "Juana" came to Congress during the discussion for the legalization of abortion last year. In that context, Urtubey decided to repeal his protocol and to adhere to the one that rules throughout the country, which does not set temporary limits.
According to Unicef figures, indigenous households have the worst educational, health and social indicators in the country, and of those, Salta are among the most neglected. A.M.S. He grew up in a precarious home, poorly nourished and without education. And when it was abused, the entire protection system failed to a victim "plunged into a very poor state of indigence", as described by the judge of the provincial Court Abel Cornejo, author of a request of jury against the first instructors of this case, who It did not prosper.