San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Court Says 9-Year-Old Mother Not Raped

ALTHOUGH DNA tests show Manuel López is the father of his 9-year-old daughter’s baby, born in October 2003, he was found not guilty of rape in a Desamparados court last month.

López was sentenced to 15 years in prison for two counts of sexual abuse – instead of the 48 years he would have faced if convicted of the three counts of rape he was charged with.

After evaluating the results of medical exams, judges determined on Feb. 11 that what led to the impregnation of the 9-year-old was not rape because there was no penetration, according to court spokesman Sergio Bonilla.

A medical exam in July 2003 showed the girl’s hymen was intact “without breakage, either old or new,” La Nación reported last week.

“It was a medical question – for there to be rape, there must be entry, but what happened was he ejaculated over the vulva of the minor,” Felipe Montealegre, public defender for López, told The Tico Times this week. “There were no lesions of any type.”

HOWEVER, representatives of the National Women’s Institute (INAMU) refute this definition of rape.

“The presence of the girl’s hymen does not discount that there was rape, because there are hymens that are more flexible, so there could have been this type of penetration without any ruptures of the hymen,” said Sylvia Mesa, a psychologist of violence for INAMU.

“Furthermore, the consequence of the girl’s pregnancy seems to me should implicate the application of the full force of the law,” she added.

The argument that the sperm entered the girl’s vagina from the vulva without penetration “is just justification for a lower punishment, he should have had the maximum sentence,” Mesa said.

According to the Law Against the Sexual Exploitation of Minors, “persons who carry out or have carnal access orally, anally or vaginally with a person of whichever sex in the following cases will be sanctioned with a prison sentence of 10 to 16 years: when the victim is under 12 years old, when the victim is incapable or found to be incapable of resisting, when they use physical violence or intimidation.”

The same sentence can be imposed if that action includes the introduction into the vagina or anus of fingers or objects.

LÓPEZ was found guilty of two counts of sexual abuse against a minor. The sentence for this charge, when it involves someone under the age of 12 and a relative or guardian, is between four and 10 years. López was sentenced to 10 years for the first charge and five years for the second.

The abuse happened in the evening, while the child’s mother was at work at a restaurant, according to Patricia Porras, who works with the 9-year-old mother and her 28-year-old mother in the group Recycling Hopes, a support group for young mothers (see separate story).

The girl is in the second grade and is still learning to read, Porras said. She suffers from some mental retardation. The girl’s daughter was born physically healthy.

“She really doesn’t even realize she is a mother,” Porras said, as the girl played with a doll at a recent meeting of Recycling Hopes.


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