Children having children
By Linda Forsell – Last year I was told the story of a man who sexually abused five generations of women in his family and produced babies as a result of the assaults. The youngest of his victims was three years old when he died. He was an extremity, but the violence that those women suffered is not.
5 100 girls between the ages 10 to 14 became pregnant in Guatemala in 2014, all as a result of rape. In this country with only 15 million inhabitants, the perpetrator was someone who knew the girl well in 89 percent of the cases; in one out of four the man was her own father.
The physical complications from having a baby before the body is fully developed are severe. The girls are often psychologically broken from the assaults, and society stigmatises them for example by banning them from school. Sexual education is basically nonexistent, and the powerful church discourages it. Complicated societal structures lie behind the oppression, including a heritage from the civil war where rape was used as a weapon, and a surge of drug cartel activity in the country. Since most rapes do not lead to pregnancy these cases are of course only the tip of an iceberg.
The issue of pregnant young girls in Guatemala describes a wide fundamental problem that touches the root of all gender based violence and inequality in the world; that women and especially girls are prescribed a lower value than men, by men but also by themselves. This is what first caught my interest back in 2012. The youth and naivety of these girls is hard to ignore. To all who who remember being 13, their innocence is evident and the toll on their lives are high. Take a deep breath and try to absorb an ounce of their stories.
This work has been produced with the help of the Swedish Arts Grants Committee.