Rape victim facing 40 years in prison after suffering stillbirth is cleared by court

Twenty-one-year-old sexually assaulted by gang member

Lucy Anna Gray
Tuesday 20 August 2019 10:19
Rape victim Evelyn Hernandez celebrates after being cleared of murder after giving birth to a stillborn baby at home in 2016
Rape victim Evelyn Hernandez celebrates after being cleared of murder after giving birth to a stillborn baby at home in 2016

A rape victim who faced up to 40 years in prison after she suffered a stillbirth has been cleared at retrial.

Evelyn Hernández was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide by a court in El Salvador in July 2017. She was prosecuted under the Central American country's strict abortion laws.

Now 21, she became pregnant after she was raped by a gang member when she was 18-years-old.

Ms Hernández has always maintained that she was unaware she was carrying a child.

After fainting in an outhouse near her home in April 2016, her mother took her to the hospital, where doctors found she had given birth. The body of a baby was later found in a toilet septic tank and the teenager was arrested.

After she was prosecuted in July 2017, she served 33-months behind bars.

But now a judge has overturned her sentence on appeal, citing lack of evidence. Her lawyer Bertha DeLeon said on Monday that she had been found not guilty.

Prosecutors nonetheless demanded a retrial and requested she serve 40 years.

Paula Avila Guillden, from the Women’s Equality Center, is one of the many activists who has worked with Evelyn Hernández during the trial.

“Justice for Evelyn was delayed and denied for far too long”, she said. “But today the courts have determined what we already knew to be true: Evelyn is innocent.”

El Salvador has had a total ban on abortion since 1998, including in cases of rape or incest. More than 20 women are currently in prison under charges of manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated homicide after being accused of having an abortion, according to the Women’s Equality Center.

“This day we celebrate that justice has been done for Evelyn”, leading Salvadoran women’s rights activist Morena Herrera says. “This is a sign of hope for all women who remain in jail for crimes they did not commit, for health problems that should never have been brought to court ... no woman should go through the ordeal that Evelyn did.”

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