San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Amnesty report: Nicaragua gov’t not protecting rape victims

Amnesty International last week released a blistering report on the conditions faced by rape and sexual abuse victims in Nicaragua, especially girls under the age of 17.

The report, released Nov. 25 to coincide with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, documents how Nicaraguan society stigmatizes victims of sexual violence and how Nicaraguan institutions are failing to protect victims or provide justice.

“Every day girls in Nicaragua are suffering the horror of sexual violence in silence, rather than risk the rejection that many suffer when they speak out”, said Esther Major, Amnesty International Central America Researcher.

Citing police statistics, Amnesty Inter-national revealed that more than 14,000 cases of sexual abuse were reported between 1998 and 2008, although the number is expected to be much higher due to underreporting. Most of the victims were under the age of 17, and most of the perpetrators were family members or people in positions of power, the report found.

The report blasted the government for its lack of programs to raise public awareness about sexual violence and criticized lawmakers for banning therapeutic abortion, making it impossible for impregnated rape victims to have an abortion.

Police and judicial authorities also received very low marks for their lack of professionalism and for failing to adhere to international rules governing the treatment of victims of rape and sexual abuse.

“Nicaraguan justice should serve all people – not just those with money and power,” Major said.  Instead, she said, victims are being denied justice and treatment, while being re-victimized by ignorant officials.

“Too many girls are dropping out of school, giving up on work or even attempting suicide,” the Amnesty investigator said. “They need to be supported to leave behind the traumas of their childhood.”

In October, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child expressed its concerns about the “high level of child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse and of domestic and gender-based violence” here.

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