Since the beginning of the year there has been increasing discussion in Venezuela about the right to abortion. Feminist organizations from the country itself and from other Latin American countries ran a campaign in the first week of January to draw attention to the situation of Vannesa Rosales. The 31-year-old women’s rights activist and teacher from the western state of Mérida was arrested in October last year. The accusation: You forced a girl to break off and agreed to commit a crime.
According to Rosales’ lawyer, a mother and her 13-year-old daughter turned to the teacher after the girl was raped and subsequently became pregnant. At their express request, Rosales organized the information and medication necessary to carry out an abortion. The 31-year-old is now facing up to 25 years in prison, and the rape victim’s mother was arrested. Thanks to the solidarity campaign, Rosales was released from prison on January 11th and placed under house arrest.
It is true that in Venezuela in 2007, as part of the Bolivarian Revolution, the »Law for the Right of Women to a Nonviolent Life« was passed and reformed again in 2014, introducing femicide as a separate criminal offense. However, in most cases, abortion continues to be criminalized. In 2018, feminist collectives filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court seeking decriminalization. However, they are waiting for an answer until today.
Since 1897 the criminal law paragraph on abortion has hardly changed. You are not even exempt from punishment in the event of rape, incest or harmful malformations of the fetus. The only exception is if there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman. Otherwise, they face two years imprisonment. Longer sentences are provided for third parties who “force” a woman to abortion.
The solidarity campaign, which put pressure in particular on social media such as Twitter, denounced, among other things, procedural deficiencies. But the fact that – while Rosales was in custody – the rapist of the girl was still walking around was criticized. On January 11, Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced on Twitter that the man’s arrest warrant had been issued in November.
In conversation with young world declared the feminist activist Daniella Inojosa from the collective “Tinta Violeta” in Caracas on Wednesday that the debate on legal abortions is primarily about the “self-determination of women about their own bodies.” While men are not forced by the state to change their lives based on paternity, the state is pushing women into motherhood. “If fathers leave their child and take no responsibility, it could also be called an abortion,” Inojosa continues.
40 percent of Venezuelan families are led by single mothers. Especially in times of the severe economic crisis in which the country is – to a large extent as a result of the US economic blockade – abortions should be legalized according to feminist collectives. The case of Rosales in particular shows how serious the consequences of the criminalization of abortion are for poor women and girls who have to resort to clandestine and insecure methods of abortion. “So the right to abortion is also a class issue,” Inojosa emphasizes.
Now the activist hopes that an open debate on the right to abortion will be held in Venezuela, free of religious influences. It is important “that everyone understands that an abortion is a possible death sentence only for poor women, but not for rich women who have the necessary information and financial resources.” Feminist organizations estimate that around 25 percent of pregnant deaths in Venezuela are due to unsafe abortion practices. It is precisely against this background that they demand that the issue of legalizing abortion should be discussed in the new National Assembly.