Things That Matter

Evelyn Hernandez Is Facing A Third Trial And Angered Protesters Used A New Way To Show Their Frustration

There are rising tensions in El Salvador as activists are protesting the attorney general’s decision to seek a third trial for a woman accused of killing her stillborn son. The woman, Evelyn Hernandez, was exonerated in an August retrial after an earlier judgment found her guilty of killing her stillborn son and sentenced her to 30 years behind bars. Hernandez, 21, was found innocent after the judge said there was not enough evidence to convict her of the crime. 

The issue of abortion has always been a widely-debated and divisive topic in conservative El Salvador where abortion is illegal. Many women in the country have been prosecuted for attempting abortions even in dire medical situations. Activists look at Hernandez’s case as an example of an unjust system targeting her due to her limited financial status. 

 “We do not want Evelyn to be viewed as a criminal and persecuted,” Claribel Ayala, a protester outside the attorney general’s office in El Salvador told Reuters. “We’re going to stand with her until justice is done.”

While activists see Hernandez’s case as a trial against women rights, prosecutors are looking at her as a criminal.

Credit: @NARAL / Twitter 

Activists dressed in clown attire took to the streets of El Salvador this week to voice their disapproval of the news that attorney general Raul Melara would be seeking a third trial in Hernandez’s case. Many of them threw confetti-filled eggs at his office and even painted his door red with paint. Melara acknowledges their anger but sees the case with a different lens.  

“There are groups that have a big interest in seeing this as persecution against poverty, that this woman is being targeted because she had an emergency outside the hospital, but the proof is overwhelming and shows this isn’t the case,” Melara told reporters.

Hernandez’s release from prison was viewed as a victory for women rights. 

Credit: @karlazabs / Twitter

Hernandez said she was raped by a gang member and was unaware of her pregnancy until just before delivering a stillborn son back in 2016. She was found on her bathroom floor covered with blood and would be taken to an emergency room by her mother and a neighbor. When doctors examined her they noted that there were visible signs of delivery but found no baby. They reported Hernandez to local authorities and would later find her newborn dead inside of a septic tank.

She’s been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the alleged killing of her child. Prosecutors said that she had purposely induced abortion only to leave the newborn to die. Hernandez wound up only serving 33 months out of her original 30-year sentence before being released in February. 

This was due to an appeal before the Supreme Court who said that Hernandez should be released due the original conviction being based on prejudice and insufficient evidence. The acquittal was looked at as a huge victory for women’s rights not only in El Salvador but globally. 

“It was tough to be locked up, especially when I was innocent,” Hernandez said the day she was released. “There are others who are still locked up and I hope they are freed soon.”

Hernandez has maintained her innocence from the start that she had no knowledge of being pregnant. Now prosecutors are looking at a third trial to convict her of killing her newborn child. 

Credit: @marlasirens / Twitter

The attorney general is seeking to convict Hernandez of murder even after being released from prison. While many see Hernandez as the true victim in this ordeal, prosecutors see things differently.  

“As Attorney General of the Republic, we are responsible for the support and accompaniment of women victims in any crime and in any of its modalities, but, in the case of Evelyn Hernández, there are no elements to consider her a victim of any fact, on the contrary, the only victim is her son,” prosecutors said in a statement . “This appeal is the manifestation of the legal protection of … the life of a helpless being who depended absolutely on the care of his mother, who caused his death.”

Hernandez’s legal team is fighting back against these claims saying that the attempt at a retrial is a waste of resources that could be used to serve more important issues. 

“We expected this persecution against Evelyn to stop,” one of her lawyers, Elizabeth Deras, told BuzzFeed News. “Instead, they are spending the state’s resources unnecessarily. Resources that could be used to fight corruption.”

As of now, the request for a new trial must be assessed by a different court before it can proceed legally. The prosecution is looking to sentence Hernandez to 40 years in prison.  

READ: These Are Our Favorite Fast Foods You Can Get In Latin America But Not In The US, Dos Por Favor!

In Another Dangerous Attack On Migrants, ICE Is Denying Women Lifesaving Medical Care At This Texas Facility

Things That Matter

In Another Dangerous Attack On Migrants, ICE Is Denying Women Lifesaving Medical Care At This Texas Facility

@RAICES / Twitter

It is undeniable that the flow of migrants towards a country presents all sorts of legal and financial challenges for a host country. Yes, we acknowledge that. But it is also true that the governments of developed nations to which Global South citizens try to migrate to escape poverty and armed conflict can choose to treat migrants (many of which are legitimate refugees fleeing real attempts to their lives and futures) in an ethical, humane way.

The recent influx of migrants to the United States has placed the spotlight on the conditions in which detainees at ICE Detention Centers are kept.

Credit: web18-detentioncenter2-1160×768 (1). Digital image. ACLU

We all, of course, remember the testimony of politicians such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortrez, who witnessed first hand the dire situation. Children sleeping on the floor, people drinking water out of basins on top of toilets… a total recipe for a humanitarian disaster.  

And healthy conditions are an exception rather than the norm.

Credit: 180618-immigration-cages-ice-01 (1). Digital image. The New York Post

There have been reported outbreaks of lice, bed bugs and upper respiratory tract infections at detention centers, and the authorities have been unable or unwilling to provide basic healthcare for detainees. There have also been a fair number of deaths by suicide. The victims are usually detainees who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, which are unattended during detention. Since December, six minors have died while on ICE custody. Let that sink in. 

And now there are alarming reports coming out of an ICE facility in Texas that houses women.

Credit: karnes-frc. Digital image. ICE.gov

As the Huffington Post reports, interviews conducted by the advocacy group Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) reveal appalling episodes in the Karnes County Residential Center, where women are forced to stay for lengthy periods of time instead of being released on parole or bond. Some of these women face serious physical and psychological ailments. 

The interviews reveal cases of women with cancer that have not received any sort of treatment while at the facility.

Credit: _57298637.0. Digital image. VOX. 

The interviews conducted by RAICES revealed an appalling level of negligence. As HuffPost reports: “One Congolese woman who was diagnosed with cancer in her uterus said she has not been taken to a specialist for treatment since being sent to Karnes at the end of July. The pain in her back and abdomen has become so bad that she sleeps only two hours a night, according to her declaration”. Another woman from the African country (which has a bad reputation when it comes to women’s rights and that has been immersed in an on and off civil war for years) said that doctors told her she most likely had cancer (she had, they told her, a 90% chance), but she hasn’t had a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. 

Women at the facility are so desperate that advocates fear a wave of suicides.

Credit: migrant-detention-cetner (1). Digital image. WCCO

Andrea Meza, the director of family detention services at RAICES, told HuffPost: “We’ve heard so many women talk to us about wanting to kill themselves. It’s only a matter of time before someone dies at Karnes.”  They also heard stories of unattended miscarriages and psychotic episodes. 

The Karnes County Residential Center was originally built to house Central American migrants and their children, but things have changed.

Credit: port-isabel-detention-center. Digital image. Time. 

The facility was supposed to be a place where families could be kept together. But things have changed and now it is a real place of human anguish. The report by RAICES concludes that the site is being run with punitive purposes, to discourage people from crossing the border. Really, do authorities just sit around in meeting rooms plotting how to be even more inhumane? 

Now, the Trump administration announced that they will keep detaining families at this facility and Kamala Harris is against it.

Credit: download. Digital image. Politico

And Democrat lawmakers are not happy. As reported by Foreign Affairs New Zealand: “U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday sent a letter to Daniel Bible, San Antonio Field Office Director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), demanding that ICE reconsider detaining families and children at the Karnes County Residential Center in light of multiple reports of insufficient medical care and attempted suicides. Given the inhumane conditions at Karnes, Harris also pressed Bible to use his discretion to consider each eligible woman currently detained at the facility for release from ICE custody”. 

There has been an increase in the number of undocumented migrants from Africa, and the Karnes County Residential Center houses a number of them.

Credit: abuse-texas-detenttion-center-1521822550. Digital image. The Intercept

The influx of Africans to the United States has increased dramatically in the past few years due to tougher immigration laws and enforcement in Western European countries and to the increased levels of violence in the region. Time reported earlier this year: “More than 500 migrants from countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola have arrived at the Del Rio border station in Texas since May 30, including a group of 116 people”. Reports suggest that instead of going through Mexico directly, African migrants first go to Brazil and then continue their perilous path to the United States. 

A 14-Year-Old Was Reportedly Driven To Suicide After She Was Humiliated At Her Own School For Having Her Period

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A 14-Year-Old Was Reportedly Driven To Suicide After She Was Humiliated At Her Own School For Having Her Period

A 14-year-old Kenyan girl killed herself after being period shamed by a teacher when she did not have access to a pad. The tragedy has caused unrest in Kenya, unifying women Parliament members to end period stigma, causing parents to mobilize, and launching a formal investigation into the girl’s death. Period shame around the world is an oppressive force that undermines bodily autonomy, education, and personal freedoms for girls and nonbinary people by stigmatizing a basic body function.

According to the United Nations Population Fund report on Menstrual Health Management in East and Southern Africa, “Studies from Kenya find that schoolgirls engage in transactional sex to pay for menstrual products, particularly for the younger, uneducated, economically dependent girls.” 

In the United States, a survey of 1500 women and 500 men by THINX revealed that 58 percent of women felt a sense of embarrassment for simply being on their period and 42 percent said they had been explicitly period shamed.

While Kenya has recently taken steps to make sanitary napkins more accessible at schools, this structural failure has led to a tragic loss. 

Period shaming can have tragic consequences. 

A 14-year-old Kenyan girl started her period for the very first time while at middle school in Bomet County, Kenya. When she couldn’t obtain a pad, the girl began to bleed through her school uniform. Unable to concentrate, due to the incident, she asked for help. Then her teacher berated her in class, calling her “dirty” for staining her clothes. 

Forced to leave the classroom, she walked home. After telling her mother what happened, she said she was going to go fetch water, but instead, she killed herself. According to a local Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, Konoin Sub-County Police Commander Alex Shikondi said that officers took the girl’s body to a nearby hospital. 

“When police arrived at the scene, they found the girl had committed suicide… and the body was moved to Kapkatet Hospital mortuary,” said Commander Alex Shikondi.

Parents want answers.

The girl’s mother, Beatrice Koech, spoke to Daily Nation about what happened. She claimed her daughter believed the female teacher would be an ally to her, and help her understand what was happening. Instead, her daughter was shamed in front of the classroom. 

“She had nothing to use as a pad,” Koech told the newspaper. “When the blood stained her clothes, she was told to leave the classroom and stand outside.”

Koech reported the incident to police, but after four days of inaction, parents stormed the school in protest. Parents wanted to know why the teacher shamed the 14-year-old. Police threw tear gas canisters at the parents who were blocking the road to the school. Officers arrested five demonstrators. The school was closed and students were sent home. 

Basic Education Act of 2017

Kenya passed the Basic Education of 2017, which makes access to menstrual napkins mandatory in public schools across the country. Pads in public schools are not a mere luxury, the necessary product is inaccessible to many in the region. Just last year, the capital of Kenya itself was hit with a tampon shortage when there was massive Kotex recall in Nairobi due to a malfunctioning batch.

When a person has their period and no sanitary napkins or tampons, they are more likely to stay home from school. This can have negative effects on girls’ and nonbinary folks’ education and self-esteem, often making children feel like a burden. 

“The cost of menstrual products may also contribute to the perception that daughters are economically burdensome,” according to the United Nations

School is often the only place where students can get pads, which is why the Basic Education Act is great. Nevertheless, many schools have still not implemented the program or have been skipped over. 

Kenyans want justice.

According to BuzzFeed, “An organization called One Dollar for Life, which makes and distributes reusable pads to girls across Kenya, has ramped up its outreach in light of the girl’s death last week. Program manager Brenda Birrell told BuzzFeed News via email that the group plans to hand out 1,000 reusable pad kits — which also contain information about self-defense, female biology, and feminine hygiene — over the next two months.”

Women members of Kenyan’s Parliament occupied the Ministry of Education to pressure a police investigation. After parents and lawmakers held their ground, the police finally launched a formal investigation into the girl’s death.

“What must she be going through in her life to have that be her reaction?” Megan White Mukuria, whose organization ZanaAfrica Foundation provides pads and reproductive education to girls, told BuzzFeed. 

“The reality for a lot of women can be very difficult. [Maybe] her cup has not been filled, and her rights have not been taught to her.”