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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 02:22 GMT
Mexican rape women 'denied help'
By Claire Marshall
BBC News, Mexico City

Kenneth Roth with the report
The organisation says many women feel too intimidated to seek help
Rape victims in Mexico are routinely denied access to legal abortion, says Human Rights Watch in a new study.

It says official figures reveal more than 120,000 women are raped in Mexico each year but the real figure could be much higher.

The group says many of these women are intimidated by officials into having backroom abortions or going through with the pregnancies unwillingly.

It conducted interviews with doctors, lawyers, officials and rape victims.

In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, abortion is illegal in Mexico unless the woman concerned was raped.

However, according to the report, many women are still denied safe abortions even if their pregnancy was a result of this crime.


Pregnant rape victims are intimidated, insulted and threatened.

Humiliation drives over 90% of women away from ever even reporting their rape
Kenneth Roth
Human Rights Watch

For example, some public prosecutors have told rape victims that having an abortion would kill them.

Human Rights Watch likens this to a second assault.

It says rape victims may feel reluctant to approach prosecutors for fear of being humiliated or thought to be reporting a rape in order to get an abortion.

"That humiliation drives over 90% of women away from ever even reporting their rape. And as a result, without reporting the rape, they're not entitled to an abortion," says executive director, Kenneth Roth.

The report says that this forces many into having backroom abortions at great risk to their health.

Marta Lamas is a women's rights activist and welcomes the survey. She describes it as a "breakthrough".

"I think it's going to give legitimacy to what we have been denouncing for years. It gives a very clear picture of the psychological problems of public officials that are not allowing women to have a legal abortion when they have been raped."

Human Rights Watch are calling on the Mexican government to draw up and enforce proper administrative guidelines and to better train and discipline their public officials.

The study was based on interviews with more than a hundred doctors, lawyers, officials and rape victims.

Mexican Church attacks pill use
27 Jan 04 |  Americas
Country profile: Mexico
02 Mar 06 |  Country profiles

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