10 years after "Esperancita's" death, demand a Penal Code that protects girls and women

Rosa Hernández, "Esperancita’s" mother, whose case is currently before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights-IACHR, and other relatives of several women who have died because of the country's abortion ban, support the presentation of a new Penal Code that includes the possibility for women to have access in three special circumstances. 

  • Country: Dominican Republic
  • Date: 17/08/2022
10 years after "Esperancita's" death, demand a Penal Code that protects girls and women

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.- Today, August 17, 2022, marks the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the death of Rosaura Almonte Hernández. Under the slogan “La ley dominicana le causó la muerte” ("Dominican law caused her death"), several organizations and social groups today denounced, in front of the National Congress, the danger posed to women and girls by the total prohibition of abortion under any circumstances, even to save their lives, as happened to Rosaura, known as “Esperancita”.  

During the emotional ceremony, which was also attended by the families of three other women who also died due to the lack of access to a pregnancy termination that was necessary to save their lives, a call was reiterated to the President of the Republic, Luis Abinader, to keep his word to support a draft Penal Code that guarantees rights and not to let the case of "Esperancita" go unpunished in the Dominican justice system. 

Rosaura Almonte Hernández died at the age of 16 after being diagnosed with leukemia and denied chemotherapy because she was pregnant. The absolute prohibition of abortion that still exists in the country caused medical personnel to prioritize the care of the pregnancy over Rosaura's life. 

Following the case, her mother Rosa Hernandez and relatives of other similar cases have joined the women's movement that for more than 20 years has fought for the approval of abortion on at least three grounds: in cases of rape or incest; in cases of fetal non-viability; and when the pregnancy puts the health or life of women and girls at risk. 

"After my daughter's death, other young women have died in similar circumstances. It is outrageous that history repeats itself. It is cruel that more families lose their daughters, sisters and nieces to a law that instead of saving them, condemns them. But I will not give up. In memory of my daughter, I will continue to raise my voice until the three grounds are approved in Congress", Esperancita's mother stated. 

As this anniversary coincides with the beginning of a new legislative period, the affected families along with other organizations and collectives delivered a letter to a commission of legislators warning about the cost of keeping abortion criminalized. Examples of this are the cases of Rosaura Almonte Hernández ("Esperancita", 2012), Damaris Mejia (2012), Carmen Dionelys Martínez Bonilla (2018), and Winifer Nuñez Beato (2021). 

"Banning abortion does not save lives, it only causes the death of women and great pain in families like ours who still cry for their completely preventable deaths. We have lived the injustice first hand and we do not want more families to go through this same situation. Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, since the death of my daughter, all the authorities of the country have ignored our demands", said Hernandez during the delivery of the letter that was received by a commission of legislators. 

"Esperancita’s" case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 

In addition to joining the voices currently calling for a modern Criminal Code that protects women's rights, Rosa Hernández continues to demand that the Dominican justice system clarify the facts surrounding the death of her daughter, punish those responsibly, and adopt the necessary structural changes to prevent situations like her daughter's from being repeated in the country. 

In 2013, Rosa Hernández, represented by Women's Link Worldwide, initiated two legal proceedings in the Dominican Republic. The first, a criminal complaint, is still in its initial stage and they still do not have full access to the file. The other is a process that seeks to determine the financial responsibility of the State, headed by the Ministry of Health, for Rosaura's death.   

The latter was reopened in July 2022 before the Superior Administrative Court, which ordered the reopening of the evidentiary stage and merits. This process is currently ongoing.

Nine years after the judicial proceedings began, they remain unresolved, as there has only been late and partial progress in one of them. Due to the lack of justice and urgency in the Dominican Republic, the case of "Esperancita" was taken to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2017, where all the procedural stages have been completed and are ready to be decided. 

"Rosa, we, her lawyers, and the women's movement in the Dominican Republic are confident that the country will be held internationally accountable for failing to comply with its obligations and will initiate reforms to decriminalize abortion and thus finally protect the health and integrity of girls and women in this country," concluded Marcia Aguiluz, attorney at Women's Link Worldwide.  

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Contact for Media

Carolina Dueñas Orozco

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About Women's Link Worldwide

Women’s Link Worldwide is an international organization which uses the power of the law to promote a social change which promotes the rights of women and girls, especially those facing multiple forms of discrimination.

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