Kate Allen: Nicaragua's hidden scandal

Related Topics

Connie was just nine years old when her father first raped her. The abuse continued until she was 14. She told Amnesty International that her father would regularly hit her so much that she was unable to go to school the next day. Why? Chillingly because he wanted her to stay at home so “he could abuse her as much as he wanted”.

Throughout those five years Connie felt powerless to say anything, or to speak up.

The abuse came to an end when, at 14, Connie became pregnant. At that point the police got involved and visited the house. Shortly after the police left (without taking action), Connie’s father tried to commit suicide and died in hospital shortly afterwards. When Connie’s situation was finally revealed, rather than receiving the care she desperately needed, Connie had to deal with a barrage of criticism from her teachers and her own brothers who blamed her for leaving them without a father.

Today Connie is 17 years old and still struggling to rebuild her life. She was forced out of the family home by her brothers, who no longer speak to her.

For any young girl the emotional distress – particularly if the attacker is a relative – along with the physical trauma of rape or any sexual violence is a suffering unimaginable for most of us.

Essential to any young girl’s successful rehabilitation is the appropriate treatment and support to rebuild her life. However, for thousands of girls in Nicaragua this is rarely what happens. Instead the response from both society and the authorities alike mirrors the reaction of Connie’s family. The victim is regularly treated as the person in the wrong and very little support is offered to these girls.

Tragically Connie’s story is not an isolated one in Nicaragua. Across the country, rape and sexual violence are endemic. Between 1998 and 2008, official statistics showed that more than 14,000 cases were reported. Two thirds of the victims were under the age of 17. Moreover rape and sexual abuse are under-reported crimes, especially if they include incest; the real figures will be considerably higher.

As Amnesty International show in its report published yesterday, the Nicaraguan authorities do little to clamp down on perpetrators and at times even religious figures collude with the secrecy. One young woman told Amnesty that she was 17 when she was raped by a member of her family and later became pregnant. Several people, including the local priest, pressured the teenager not to file a complaint and to give the baby up for adoption.

The gravity of this situation is compounded by the fact that Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the world where a total abortion ban is in place. This makes it illegal for any woman or girl to seek an abortion – even in cases of rape or incest, or where her life is at risk. Equally any medical practitioners who attempt to carry out an abortion, or even indirectly induce one face criminal charges. These highly controversial measures are putting the lives of thousands of women and girls at risk across the country.

As the world marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we are reminded by the story of Connie and other girls across Nicaragua that the failure to protect girls and women from such violence not only serves to destroy the lives of the girls and women themselves, it also destroys families and ultimately corrodes the country from within.

Put simply, this is a violation that no government can afford to ignore. For more information visit www.amnesty.org.uk/women

Kate Allen is the Amnesty International UK Director

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific