Young Mexican Rape Victim Speaks Out on Her 18th Birthday, Urging the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Formally Admit Her Case

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Today, with the support of international human rights groups, Paulina, a young rape victim from Mexico, is asking the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to formally admit her legal petition so that negotiations can begin with the Mexican government. Women's Rights groups throughout Latin America have signed on to a letter urging the Commission to move on the case, which was filed in March 2002. Today, the letter is being published in three Mexican newspapers, and will presented to the Inter-American Commission in the coming weeks.

The petition, filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, seeks recognition from the Mexican government that officials violated Paulina's rights to judicial protection, reproductive autonomy and privacy. It also seeks assurances that Mexico will enforce the laws guaranteeing the right to abortion for rape victims, and proposes that the government provide all rape victims with emergency contraception as part of standard medical care.

"We hope the Commission will formally admit the case and begin negotiations, as this is the first step in ensuring that reproductive rights violations are treated like other human rights violations," said Katherine Hall-Martinez, Director of the International Legal Program for the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Sadly, Paulina's case is only one of many, we are hopeful that this case will send a signal throughout Latin America that women's rights must be respected," added Martinez.

Paulina, who turns 18 today, was 13 years old when she was raped by a heroin addict who broke into her home. Her case gained international attention when she was denied an abortion due to personal and religious beliefs of justice officials and health authorities. In all but one Mexican state, first trimester abortion is legal in cases of rape, but the procedure is nearly impossible to obtain in public health facilities due to a regulatory void that allows public officials to abuse their authority.