Four ministries in Salta’s provincial government are accused of discriminating against a 12-year-old Wichí girl who became pregnant allegedly after being gang-raped in November.
The National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism (Inadi) opened a case against the ministries of health, early childhood care, indigenous affairs, and human rights for not properly assisting the girl – who suffers a disability – after the attack.
The girl, known as A.S., was raped by up to eight men after being grabbed while walking with two other friends near the village of Alto La Sierra. The girl’s family reported the crime immediately, but claimed in an article published in local newspaper El Tribuno on 25th May that no-one had visited the community to offer support.
In the same article, provincial legislator Jesús Ramón Villa accused the provincial government of “abandoning” the victim. The report prompted outrage and new tests, and last week A.S. was ordered to have an emergency cesarean section after doctors determined the unborn baby – estimated at 34 weeks – suffered from anencephaly. The baby died during the surgery.
“The girl was never in school, did not have access to benefits for her disability, nor access to the Universal Child Income, nor offered the possibility of having a non-punishable abortion,” said Inadi delegate for Salta, Álvaro Ulloa.
Though abortion is illegal in Argentina, it is accessible and non-punishable in cases of rape or when the mother’s live is in danger. “There was no pregnancy test, the state did not offer economic, psychological or structural support during her pregnancy,” added Ulloa.
Ulloa claimed that the case highlights systematic discrimination against indigenous communities in rural Salta. “This emergency has exposed a system that is set up to function poorly in places such as Alto La Sierra, where men, women, and children are discriminated against, treated as second-class citizens, and abandoned to fate.”
Provincial legislators in the Commission for Human Rights also had sharp criticism for state authorities. “[Officials] did not comply with the protocols for medical aid in cases of non-punishable abortions and for victims of rape,” concluded a preliminary report on the case released yesterday.
Speaking to La Gaceta, Wichí leader Reinaldo Ferreira also criticised the state for failing to protect indigenous communities. “The people that did this [rape] must pay, but the the government and judiciary are also responsible for looking the other way. Is it because the victim is an indigenous child?”
Eight males – including three minors – are being investigated as the alleged perpetrators of the rape in November. Five were arrested shortly after the incident, but were released in March after it was discovered that the local village doctor that originally treated A.S. was Bolivian and did not have his license validated in Argentina. The medical report was instead signed by a bio-chemist manager of the hospital, with both now faces charges for false testimony.
On Monday, one of the girls that was with the victim A.S. on the day of the crime identified the eight suspects as the attackers.
Investigators will now compare DNA samples taken from the foetus with those from the accused to see if there is proof that the girl’s pregnancy was caused by the gang rape.
Prosecutor Armando Cazón told press that the estimated gestation period of 34 weeks suggested that the girl was already pregnant at the time of the rape, stating that this could open a new line of inquiry into previous abuse.
Meanwhile, the highest court of Salta province said last night that it would revise the actions of the Tartagal judge in charge of the case, Fernando Mariscal Astigueta.