In El Salvador, Sara Rogel was (almost) released from prison. She should have never been there

“The witch-hunt, then, was a war against women; it was a concerted attempt to degrade them, dehumanize them, and destroy their social power. At the same time, it was in the torture chambers and on the stakes on which the witches perished that the bourgeois ideals of womanhood and domesticity were forged.”  Silvia Federici

Sara del Rosario Rogel García, aka Sara Rogel, has spent the last ten years in a prison in eastern El Salvador for a crime she never committed which wasn’t a crime in the first place but which non-crime event never occurred. Once again, El Salvador is willing, even eager, to sacrifice a young woman’s life in the pursuit of complete control over women’s lives, bodies, everything. On Monday, a judge ruled that Sara Rogel could be released from prison because she no longer presented “a danger” to society. Sara Rogel still sits in prison, however, because the prosecution has five days to appeal. Even if Sara Rogel is released from prison, at the end of the week, it is clear that her `freedom’ will be conditional, as was the case with Cindy Erazo last year, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz in 2019, Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquín and Teodora Vasquez in 2018, all women who were wrongly imprisoned … and for what?

In 2012, 21-year-old Sara Rogel was a student and was pregnant, a pregnancy of which,  according to her attorney, she was happy. While doing laundry, Sara Rogel slipped, fell, suffered a miscarriage, hemorrhaged, had to be taken to the hospital, where she was initially charged with an illegal abortion and then with aggravated murder. Sara Rogel was sentenced to 30 years in prison. From the moment Sara Rogel was charged to today, feminist groups, human rights advocates, international groups such as the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights protested the violations of Sara Rogel’s basic human rights. At first, to no avail, but finally, this week, a bit of light began to flicker through. For the last ten years, and beyond, Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, has led, pushed, persisted.

Cindy Erazo, Evelyn Beatríz Crus, Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquín, Teodora Vasquez, and Sara Rogel, together, spent a total of 44 years in prison … a life time. For what? For having suffered an obstetric emergency? No. When will Sara Rogel be free, and who will pay for the years of captivity? When and where does the witch hunt end? Where is the global outrage at the torture being visited upon women, especially young women, in El Salvador and beyond?

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

 

(Photo Credit: CNN)

Cindy Erazo left El Salvador’s Ilopango Women’s Prison. She should have never been there.

Cindy Erazo

“The witch-hunt, then, was a war against women; it was a concerted attempt to degrade them, dehumanize them, and destroy their social power. At the same time, it was in the torture chambers and on the stakes on which the witches perished that the bourgeois ideals of womanhood and domesticity were forged.” Silvia Federici

On Wednesday, Cindy Erazo, 29 years old, mother of a 10-year-old child, walked out of Ilopango Women’s Prison, that special hell El Salvador built for women. Cindy Erazo spent the last six years in Ilopango Women’s Prison for a crime she never committed, and even now her freedom is conditional. Given her story, every woman’s freedom in El Salvador and beyond is `conditional.’

In August 2014, Cindy Erazo suffered an obstetric emergency. She has said she was not aware at the time that she was pregnant. She was at a mall and started bleeding. She went to the restroom where she passed out. When Cindy Erazo regained consciousness, she was in a hospital bed, chained to the bed. She was immediately charged with having an illegal abortion. Cindy Erazo was promptly sentenced to 30 years in prison, in that special hell Ilopango Women’s Prison. Later, her sentence was reduced to 10 years, for aggravated assault. After six years, this week, Cindy Erazo won `conditional’ freedom. In so doing, she joins women such as Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz, released in 2019, and Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquín and Teodora Vasquez, both released in 2018. Since her release, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz has been informed that the State seeks to charge her yet again. Freedom for women, and not only is El Salvador, is `conditional’ to the extreme.

Starting in 1998, El Salvador banned all abortions. Previously, abortion had been illegal but generally not prosecuted.  El Salvador is one of six countries to ban all abortions. El Salvador opened hunting season on pregnant women; any woman who suffered a miscarriage was suspected of both having had an abortion and of having committed murder. Between 2000 and 2014, over 250 women were reported to the police. 147 women were prosecuted.  49 women were convicted – 26 for murder and 23 for abortion. Salvadoran women’s groups, such as the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic and Ethical Abortion and Abortion for Reasons of Fetal Anomaly and the Feminist Collective, have waged a mighty campaign. Cindy Erazo’s release is in large part due to their persistent organizing.

Cindy Erazo leaves behind at least 18 women, caught in the overcrowded, toxic conditions of Ilopango Women’s Prison, none of whom have done anything wrong or illegal other than being women. Cindy Erazo was given `conditional’ freedom. When will she be free, and who will pay for the years of captivity? When and where does the witch hunt end? Where is the global outrage at the torture being visited upon women, especially young women, in El Salvador and beyond? 

(Photo Credit: BBC / Centro de derechos reproductivos)

Today’s witch-hunt: Caroline Mwatha and Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz

“The witch-hunt, then, was a war against women; it was a concerted attempt to degrade them, dehumanize them, and destroy their social power. At the same time, it was in the torture chambers and on the stakes on which the witches perished that the bourgeois ideals of womanhood and domesticity were forged. In this case, too, the witch-hunt amplified contemporary social trends. There is, in fact, an unmistakable continuity between the practices targeted by the witch-hunt and those banned by the new legislation that in the same years was introduced to regulate family life, gender and property relations.”            
Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

The news this week reminds us that the witch hunt is thriving and in process. In Kenya, human rights defender Caroline Mwatha disappeared and then was found, dead. Police quickly determined that the cause of Caroline Mwatha’s death was a “botched” abortion. While questions abound concerning that report, not in question is the severity of Kenya’s restrictions on abortions and on women’s access to reproductive health care and justice. In El Salvador, yesterday, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz walked out of the hellhole of Ilopango Women’s Prison, where she had been held for almost three years for “aggravated homicide”, which judgment was based on Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz not having sought prenatal care while she was pregnant. We live in the world that spins between Caroline Mwatha and Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz.

On February 6, Caroline Mwatha was reported missing. Caroline Mwatha lived and worked in the Dandora neighborhood of Nairobi, where she had founded the Dandora Community Justice Centre. Caroline Mwatha was well known for her investigations into extrajudicial killings, specifically, and police abuses more generally. She was a fierce and dedicated human and women’s rights defender and warrior. At the same time, she was a pregnant woman living in Kenya. According to certain reports, Caroline Mwatha chose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. According to all reports, Kenya is an especially dangerous place in which to make that choice. That danger is caused by especially harsh restrictions as well as by government political policies. In November 2018, Marie Stopes Kenya, the single largest provider of safe abortions in the country, was forced to close its abortion operations. Meanwhile, also last year, the government reported that every year in Kenya about 2,600 women die from unsafe abortions. That’s seven women every dayWhat killed Caroline Mwatha? Evelyn Opondo, Africa director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, put it simply: “Caroline did not have to die. Her death was preventable. She is just one of so many women who are killed needlessly due to unsafe abortion in clinics run by ‘quacks’.” Caroline Mwatha did not have to die, but she was executed by state policy.

In July 2017, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was found guilty of aggravated homicide. Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was a high school student at the time, who was repeatedly raped by a gang member. She became pregnant. She didn’t know she was pregnant. She knew that she had stomach pains, but, because she also was bleeding, she thought she wasn’t pregnant. Then In April 2016, she gave birth in the bathroom of her family’s home. She passed out. When she regained consciousness, she was arrested. At the trial, medical experts couldn’t ascertain whether the fetus died in utero or after the birth. The prosecution maintained that Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz had not sought prenatal care because she didn’t want the child. The judge agreed, and sentenced Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz to thirty years in prison. After a little less than three years in the hellhole of Ilopango Women’s Prison, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was granted a new trial. Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz can stay out of prison until a new trial, April 4. Mariana Moisa, of Agrupacion Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, or Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, noted, “In 2019 we shouldn’t be fighting for the presumption of innocence when a woman loses a pregnancy. We shouldn’t have to be proving that motherhood is not related to crime. We should have full human rights as Salvadoran women.”

Kenyan activists mourn the death of Caroline Mwatha. Salvadoran activists celebrate the release of Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz. These are pages in the history of the witch-hunt. While both Kenya and El Salvador explain their anti-abortion policies as a consequence of their being “religious”, the tie that binds the two is the marriage of patriarchy and capitalism at whose altar the power and knowledge of autonomous, self-aware women is demonized and criminalized. Caroline Mwatha wanted help, and instead she was given a death sentence. Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz needed help, and instead she was given a 30-year-sentence, which is akin to a death sentence. That’s the modern witch-hunt, and it must end now. It’s time, it’s way past time, to demand justice for Caroline Mwatha, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz, and all the women subjected to the witch-hunt. Shut it down … now!

Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz 

 

(Image Credit: Hivisasa) (Photo Credit: BBC / AFP)