Woman who gave birth to rapist’s baby faces 20 years in jail




A woman who got pregnant after being raped is facing 20 years in jail charged with attempted murder after she gave birth to her abuser’s baby in a latrine in El Salvador.

Imelda Cortez, 20, from San Miguel, has been in custody since April 2017 after giving birth to a baby girl fathered by her abusive elderly stepfather.

Cortez had been abused by her 70-year-old stepfather since she was 12 years old. She got pregnant but claims she had no idea she was pregnant. Her mother found her one day bleeding heavily and in severe pain and she was rushed to hospital.

The emergency room doctor suspected an abortion and called the police. When officers arrived they found the baby healthy and alive. But due to the country's rigid abortion laws, Cortez was charged with attempted murder, denied bail and sent to jail after a week in hospital.


Bertha María Deleón, one of Cortez’s defence lawyers, said:

This is the most extreme, scandalous injustice against a woman I’ve ever seen. The state has repeatedly violated Imelda’s rights as a victim; she’s deeply affected but denied psychological attention.

While Cortez was in hospital, her stepfather visited her and threatened to kill her, her siblings and her mother if she reported the abuse. Another patient overheard and told a nurse, who called the police.

The hospital incident happened after prosecutors accused Cortez of cooking up the story about being sexually abused to justify her crime. But a DNA test confirmed the baby’s paternity. In spite of that, her stepfather is yet to be charged.

A psychological evaluation carried out on Cortez detected cognitive and emotional deficits consistent with abuse and trauma, yet Cortez has received no psychological support since being detained 18 months ago.


Abortion is illegal in all circumstances in El Salvador and the total ban has led to the aggressive persecution of women, especially poor, single rural-dwellers. 

Most of these women have been convicted on tenuous evidence after having a gynaecological complication such as a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The criminal trial against Cortez opens today, with a ruling by the three judges expected within a week.
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