Women’s rights activists had cause to celebrate this week. On August 17, the Supreme Court of Argentina’s Tucumán Province ordered the release of a young woman known as “Belén,” who had been accused of double homicide in March 2014. She was accused of inducing an abortion and leaving the fetus in a hospital bathroom—though there was no DNA evidence to prove this. Her shocking case had drawn national and international attention.
While Belén’s release from prison is a big win for feminists, she should never have been there in the first place. This spring, I wrote about the case and how it brought to light the injustices women in Argentina face—from both the health and the legal systems.
Over the last few years, feminists groups in Argentina rallied. The organization Catholics for the Right to Decide-Argentina (CDD-Argentina), an IWHC grantee partner, actively advocated for Belén’s freedom. One of their members, Soledad Deza, represented her. A well-respected voice on reproductive rights in Argentina, the organization raised awareness of the outrageous case and mobilized activists and allies nationwide. CDD-Argentina, along with 40 other groups that are part of the Provincial Committee for the Freedom of Belén, organized countless activities on social media and several street protests—from Tucumán to Buenos Aires. On August 12th, thousands of people showed up across the country to demand her freedom.
After her release was announced, to the relief of the women’s rights activists, CDD-Argentina issued a statement:
“Thousands, millions of screams brought about the Court’s decision. Today we are celebrating this great achievement from the Court, with the happiness of having been the organization that took on Belén’s defense, with our dear Soledad Deza who worked without rest and with the support of all the people and organizations that, in different ways, contributed to this achievement.“
The full statement is available here (in Spanish).
Unfortunately, this is not the end of Belén’s ordeal. The court is still deciding whether or not to overturn her conviction. And while activists and allies have shown their tireless commitment to her and her case, the struggle for women’s health and rights in Argentina continues. As CDD-Argentina staff told me last night, “We believe that the case of Belén highlights the need to debate the decriminalization of abortion. The current punitive approach forces women to face the dilemma of choosing between death and being seen as criminals.”