On March 22nd, thanks to the tireless work of family members, organizations including the Citizens Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, the Feminist Collective for Local Development, CEJIL and IPAS, together with the support of feminist and sexual and reproductive rights defenders in El Salvador, the Beatriz Case will be heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in San José (Costa Rica), thereby establishing a highly significant precedent for El Salvador and the rest of the region on the legal interruption of pregnancy.
In this regard, we are concerned that for the last few weeks, anti-rights and pro-government groups have intensified their publicity campaign in social networks that promote misogynous rhetoric and fake news about the Beatriz Case, as well as fostering attacks against women’s rights defenders and organizations. These mainly consist of mudslinging, defamation, stigmatization, insults and disparagement. The smear campaign is not only promoted in El Salvador, with the actions of trolls and bots related to the Nayib Bukele government, and within religious movements. It is also instigated in other countries, which reveals the existence of a worldwide effort to roll back women’s rights, mainly sexual and reproductive rights, spearheaded by right-wing and religious fundamentalist groups.
Let us remember that Beatriz was a young Salvadoran woman with an extremely precarious health condition. She was not allowed to interrupt her pregnancy even though it was endangering her life and the fetus exhibited a congenital malformation that made its life unsustainable. In a country where the interruption of pregnancy is punished in all circumstances and in which women can be sentenced to as many as 50 years in prison for suffering obstetric emergencies, Beatriz became a defender of sexual and reproductive rights, for which she struggled until the last day of her life.
Sexual and reproductive rights defenders targeted by anti-rights groups
According to the Mesoamerican Registry of Attacks against Women Defenders, as many as 182 attacks were registered in 2020 and 2021 against women defenders of sexual and reproductive rights, 20 of which occurred in El Salvador. Many of these attacks occurred digitally, increasing from 7% of all attacks registered in 2020 to 25% in 2021.
We can’t forget that in the case of Manuela vs El Salvador, which was also heard by the IACHR, the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in El Salvador experienced more than 13,000 attempted sabotages against their web page. It was also the target of a campaign called 40 Days for Life, which disseminated false information and fostered smear campaigns against work being carried out in the country, and went so far as to commit acts of harassment and surveillance in the group’s offices.
Through such attacks, anti-rights and pro-government groups not only attacked, repressed, and targeted feminists and women human rights defenders, but also pressured the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to avoid any progress whatsoever in achieving the rights of women.
Likewise, it’s alarming that this hate campaign against feminists and Salvadoran women defenders is being carried out under the State of Exception imposed and sustained by the government for the past year. The measure has been denounced by human rights organizations for committing many arbitrary actions and human rights violations, including 31 cases of attacks against women human rights defenders registered by the Salvadoran Network between March and December of 2022.
Justice for Beatriz is justice for all women.
In view of this situation, we of IM-Defensoras acknowledge the legacy of Beatriz, whose story has lent visibility to the reality of many women in Mesoamerica, and we also call attention to the fundamental work carried out by activists in order to bring her case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
Given our wager on feminist holistic protection, we will stay on the alert, denouncing all hate speech and attacks that may occur, either physically or digitally, against the comrades who are mobilizing in solidarity with Beatriz in San Salvador, San José, and other places.
We call on the international community to pay close attention to the case and to back Beatriz’s family, their legal representatives, the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, the Feminist Collective for Local Development, IPAS, and CEJIL. We continue to call for support for Salvadoran feminists and women defenders of sexual and reproductive rights who are mobilizing in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is our conviction that this case can and should represent a fundamental achievement for the advance of women’s rights in El Salvador and the region as a whole.
Beatriz give us the strength to decide. Winning justice for her is winning justice for all women.