A victim of sexual violence imprisoned for attempted murder

A young woman in El Salvador sits in a prison cell after being repeatedly raped by her elderly step father and giving birth to his baby.   It is an emblematic case of El Salvador's war on poor women when it comes to reproductive health.

Nina Lakahani writing in The Guardian describes the case:
In a case that highlights the rigidity of the country’s abortion laws, Imelda Cortez, 20, from an impoverished rural family in San Miguel, has been in custody since April 2017 after giving birth to a baby girl fathered by her abusive elderly stepfather. 
Cortez was rushed to hospital after her mother discovered her in severe pain and bleeding heavily. The emergency room doctor suspected an abortion and called the police. Officers found the baby healthy and alive. 
Cortez had been abused by her 70-year-old stepfather since she was 12 years old and said she had no idea she was pregnant. The baby survived, but Cortez was charged with attempted murder, denied bail and sent to jail after a week in hospital..... 
“When you thought nothing could be crueller in El Salvador, you get Imelda’s case, which shows the fierce determination of prosecutors to go after poor women regardless of the circumstances and evidence. By shackling these women to hospital beds and sending them to prison, it sends a strong message: if you’re poor, it’s not safe to seek healthcare,” said Paula Avila-Guillen.[director of Latin America Initiatives at the New York based Women’s Equality Centre.]
Heather Gies writing in New Statesman describes how the Salvadoran legal system mishandles these cases:
Marcela Martino, subdirector of the Center for Justice and International Law’s Central America and Mexico program, criticised the prosecution’s use of arguments “with no scientific or factual evidence,” such as claiming that the fact Cortez did not tell anyone she was pregnant indicated she intended to harm or kill her baby. “The prosecutor’s entire theory is based on hypotheses that do nothing more than reproduce gender stereotypes,” she said.
Cortez, who grew up in poverty in the department of Usulután 100km from the capital city, is one of 25 women currently jailed in El Salvador after suffering miscarriages, out-of-hospital births, or other gynaecological emergencies that were deemed criminal under the country’s strict abortion ban. Rights groups report that the law disproportionately impacts poor women with a lack of access to formal schooling, sexual education, and health services.

“Imelda’s is one of the cases that represents the intersectionality of violence. She is a young woman, in a situation of poverty, who has faced sexual violence,” said Sara Garcia, [an activist with the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion.]. “And the state has failed and continues to fail her by punishing and criminalising her.”...
To compound the gross unfairness of this proceeding, the courts have denied bail to Cortez, and the prosecutor repeatedly delays the proceedings.   From al Jazeera:
A Salvadoran judge postponed the trial of a young woman, who is accused of attempted aggravated homicide for giving birth to her rapist's child in a toilet, on Monday after the public prosecutor failed to show up to court. 
According to the judge, the prosecutor did not attend the scheduled proceedings due to a medical issue, but lawyers for Imelda Cortez said their client is being denied justice. 
"It worries us because I don't think the public prosecutor has much interest in the case," said Bertha De Leon, one of the lawyers. De Leon told Al Jazeera outside the court on Monday that the prosecutor's failure to show up demonstrated negligence.
More than 56,000 persons have signed a petition on Change.Org demanding that Cortez be freed.

Unfortunately, despite the work of activists on cases like Cortez's, the prospects for a rapid change in El Salvador's draconian laws seem limited.   Attempts fell short to liberalize the abortion law before a more conservative legislature took office on May 1.   The two leading candidates for president of El Salvador are not expressing support for a change --  Carlos Calleja is not supporting any changes and Nayib Bukele is only supporting an exception to permit abortion to save the life of the mother.

A short term focus could be on reforming prosecutors' actions.   Regardless of whether or not there is a ban on abortions, no woman in Imelda Cortez' situation or who suffers a miscarriage should be prosecuted for aggravated murder.  Yet dozens of women continue to be imprisoned for just that reason.        Video.