Juana

Juana is from Argentina. Her abortion happened in 2003 after she was raped as a 12-year-old. Her case became publicly known and she was then given the pseudonym "Juana".

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    OTALT/Helene Karlsson

Juana's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.

Juana, a disabled 12-year-old of the indigenous wichí people in northern Argentina was gang raped [...] As a result of the rape, Juana became pregnant.

Told in 2020 by a lawyer, member of Catholics for the Right to Decide

Juana’s story has been told to us by a feminist lawyer, a member of Catholics for the Right to Decide and the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion in Argentina. Juana's case had a large public and journalistic significance.

In November 2015, Juana, a disabled 12-year-old of the indigenous wichí people in northern Argentina was gang raped. The attack and rape of indigenous women by several white men is often referred to as “chineo” in the northern parts of Argentina. It is a cruel colonial heritage of the conquistadors, the Spanish invaders. More specifically, “chineo” refers to the rape of indigenous girls in order to mark a kind of property right on their bodies.

As a result of the rape, Juana became pregnant. According to Article 86 of the Argentine Penal Code, she should have had immediate access to legal abortion, since rape was a permittable cause of pregnancy termination in 2015. However, Juana was not able to have the abortion performed until she was seven months pregnant due to several obstacles regarding accessibility to services, financial matters, and legal hurdles. When she was finally admitted to the hospital it was shown that the fetus had anencephaly.

The differences in opportunities for indigenous women regarding health, ethnic discrimination in the judicial system, and gender-based discrimination became apparent.

By May 2016, Juana’s mother managed to reach feminist women in the city of Salta for help. During this process, Juana’s case gained national attention, and marked the first time that sexual abuse of indigenous women by Creole (European descendant) men reached national media. At the same time, the differences in opportunities for indigenous women regarding health, ethnic discrimination in the judicial system, and gender-based discrimination became apparent. This also created a meeting point between indigenous women, “white” urban women, and feminist leadership.

The intervention of the feminist movement and the NGOs, and the public attention eventually forced the state of Argentina to comply with the Penal Code’s allowance of lawful pregnancy termination due to rape.

... today I think about the value of the collective struggle that makes us grow: imposing respect for our rights and the end of impunity for rapists and sexist offenses.

feminist lawyer, member of Catholics for the Right to Decide

On Friday, June 17, 2016, the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion started a Twitter thread with the hashtag #JusticiaPorJuana (Justice for Juana), which was at the top of trending posts for almost 9 hours. Users replicated the hashtag throughout the afternoon and addressed questions and claims to the governor of Salta, the region where Juana is from. In response, those who manage the Salta governor's Twitter account blocked anyone who called themselves "Juana".

Juana was victim to more violations in the judicial process that followed in the trial of her rapists. There was a prosecutor, who, when he heard the story of Juana, insisted that none of the eight accused men would be the “father”, because “if we start to test for pregnancy for each rape, we will never finish”.

In November 2018, the eight Creole men who raped Juana were sentenced to 17 years in prison.