In a sensational trial in El Salvador, a young woman was acquitted of murder allegations following a suspected stillbirth. A judge finally concluded that there was insufficient evidence against 21-year-old Evelyn Beatriz Hernández. This cheered: "Thank God was justice spoken today." Her supporters, who had gathered in the city of Ciudad Delgado, a suburb of the capital, San Salvador, chanted, "Yes, we did it!"
In 2016, Hernandez was after a rape in the 32nd Week of pregnancy, when she felt severe abdominal pain and suffered a miscarriage. The young woman said she did not know about the pregnancy. The baby was already dead at birth.
However, the prosecution did not believe her and evaluated the miscarriage as a termination of pregnancy, which is strictly prohibited in the religious country and is subject to draconian punishments. Women who lose their child are often charged with murder. Hernández was arrested, prosecutors accused the then 18 -year-old for murder and demanded 40 years in prison. In July 2017, she was actually sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder.
"An overwhelming victory for women's rights in El Salvador"
However, the verdict did not last long. Thirty-three months after Hernandez had served her sentence, the Supreme Court overturned the guilty verdict against her for lack of evidence and ordered a new trial-for the first time in the country's history. Also in the new trial, the prosecution accused Hernández of not protecting her fetus.
Human rights activists therefore welcomed the acquittal for the 21-year-old. "This is an overwhelming victory for women's rights in El Salvador," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International (ai). No woman should be wrongfully accused of murder just because she had suffered a birth emergency. "The government must put an end to the discriminatory practice of criminalizing women," the ai director said, referring to the 16 women currently in prison in the country for abortions or stillbirths.