11-year-old gives birth to girl in Paraguay

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An 11-year-old Paraguayan girl who had been denied an abortion gave birth on Thursday, the culmination of a case that put a spotlight on child rape in the poor South American nation and drew criticism from human rights groups.

Elizabeth Torales, a lawyer for the girl's mother, told The Associated Press that the minor gave birth to a baby girl via cesarean in a Red Cross hospital in Asuncion, Paraguay's capital. Torales said that doctors told her there were no complications and both the mother and baby were resting. She said that her client, the daughter who gave birth and the girl's grandmother had requested custody of the infant.

"The baby doesn't yet have a name," said Torales.

The girl was allegedly raped and impregnated by her stepfather when she was 10. The stepfather has been arrested and is awaiting trial. The girl's mother has been charged with negligence.

The mother requested an abortion for her daughter, but the government refused to allow it, drawing praise from religious groups but criticism from many human rights organizations, including U.N. officials. Paraguay bans abortion except when the mother's life is in danger. At the time, the girl was five months pregnant and local health officials said she appeared to be in fine health.

In a statement Thursday, Amnesty International said the organization was glad the girl had come through the birth, but the fact that "she did not die does not excuse the human rights violations she suffered at the hands of the Paraguayan authorities."

While the case did spark some discussion about abortion in the deeply conservative country, the focus of several protests was on better protecting children from abuse.

About 600 girls 14 or under become pregnant each year in this country of 6.8 million people, according to local health statistics. Many called for stiffer penalties for abusers, and the funding of education programs to help parents and authorities better spot signs of abuse.

Norma Benitez, spokeswoman for the Latin American Women's Commission, said her group would now push the government to provide a safe environment for the girl that includes both her mother and grandmother.

"The Paraguayan state must fulfill its role of protecting children by providing a home and a dignified life" for this family, she said.

 

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