WGNRR Welcomes the release of Guadalupe, calls for continuing efforts to free the rest of “Las 17”

Posted on February 20, 2015

The Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights celebrates the release of Guadalupe, one of the 17 women unjustly imprisoned in El Salvador on suspicion of having an abortion, who is now finally reunited with her family after 7 years in prison. Guadalupe, a victim of sexual violence, was denounced to the authorities for abortion and then unjustly imprisoned for homicide after she suffered from obstetric complications.

On January 21st of this year, the Congress of El Salvador approved Guadalupe’s pardon by a razor-thin number of 43 votes, after both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and the Supreme Court Committee submitted their recommendation for her release. The remaining women of the group known as “Las 17,” are each currently serving up to 40-year sentences for crimes like the one attributed to Guadalupe.

Shortly after the pardon was emitted, a group of United Nations’ Special Rapporteurs urged El Salvador to pardon all women jailed for pregnancy complications and repeal the country’s restrictive abortion laws.

“The decision by El Salvador to pardon a woman convicted of aggravated homicide after suffering a miscarriage must ‘mark a turning point’ for the authorities to review the sentences against all women jailed for pregnancy-related complications”, said the United Nations’ human rights experts on January 28.

Notwithstanding this information, the local civil society coalition, Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, has confirmed that the government of El Salvador will deny the possibility of pardon for the rest of “Las 17.” We at WGNRR condemn this decision of the government of El Salvador to disregard all international recommendations and deny pardon to the rest of the women unjustly imprisoned for homicide.

Welcoming yesterday’s release of Guadalupe, Kathy Mulville, Executive Director at WGNRR stated:

“This is a tremendous achievement that has been possible thanks to the joint efforts of many local and international organizations, led by Agrupación Ciudadana. We will continue fighting together with our partners towards the release of the rest of “Las 17” and towards guaranteeing that no more women in El Salvador are unjustly detained and imprisoned after facing obstetric complications.There is still much change needed for Salvadoran women to be able to exercise meaningful decision-making power in their lives, and have access to comprehensive health services, as part of the State’s obligation to guarantee the protection of the rights of all people, including women.

El Salvador has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, with abortion criminalized in all cases, even when the woman’s life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest, imposing harsh criminal penalties on women and physicians involved in the procedures. The ban has also resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of numbers of women who have suffered pregnancy-related complications and miscarriages.These kinds of laws contradict governments’ most basic obligations to fulfill the rights and wellbeing of their populations, and are unacceptable and unjustifiable.

WGNRR is part of a coalition of NGOs headed by la Agrupación Ciudadana, which includes Amnesty International, CEJIL and the Center for Reproductive Rights, that is working towards the release of the Salvadoran women who suffered obstetric emergencies and were later convicted of homicide.

“We are at a critical juncture,” Kathy Mulville added, “and it is important that these and other women in El Salvador do not lose hope. The international community has shown that they are watching El Salvador, and we at WGNRR will continue to work arduously with our partners and members worldwide towards achieving the release of the rest of these women, supporting the very important task of defending and promoting human rights alongside the activists of El Salvador.