A week ago, I brought your attention Plan’s “Because I’m A Girl” campaign–an effort to protect girls around the world who are denied access to health services and education, and also face extremely high levels of violence, abuse and harassment.
In a real life example of how dire the need to protect girls, a 9 year old Brazilian girl’s mother was excommunicated by the Archbishop allowing her daughter to abort twins the daughter claims were the result of being raped by her stepfather. Doctors determined that the child’s uterus was not capable of supporting one fetus, let alone two and that trying to bring the pregnancy to term and give birth to the twins would most likely kill her. What was the response of her church to this crime? Her Archbishop excommunicated her mother for allowing the abortion to happen and the doctors who performed the procedure. The girl’s stepfather, who has been arrested for raping the child and her sisters repeatedly, is the only person not excommunicated by the Archbishop. How’s that for compassion?
The New York Times reports that the Brazilian Ministry of Health reports that the number of legal abortions of girls ages 10 to 14 more than doubled last year, and according to medical professionals and other experts, there is a widespread problem of sexual abuse of under-age girls that may be getting worse. From the Times story:
“A part of Brazilian society still doesn’t want to stop treating women like they are property,” said Jefferson Drezett, a gynecologist and coordinator of the sexual-abuse victims service at the hospital. “This has to change.”
Keep in mind that most of Brazil’s abortions are not legal. The Ministry of Health estimates about one million unsafe or clandestine abortions every year and they don’t know how many of these dangerous abortions involve girls who are victims of rape and incest.
What is more alarming about this case is how often it occurs around the world. According to Plan, 68,000 teenage girls die from unsafe abortions every year and teenage girls account for nearly half of victims of sexual assault worldwide. We don’t even know what those same statistics are for even younger girls like this Brazilian victim. That’s why it’s so important to support Plan’s Because I’m A Girl campaign.
As I searched for an image of a “Brazilian girl” on Google, it’s no surprise that the results returned pages and pages of bikini-clad women. Another disappointing reflection on how our society turns women into girls and girls into sexual objects.
Correction: the first version of this post reported that the 9 year old victim had also been excommunicated. This is not the case.