For many years, Amnesty International has campaigned to overturn the ban on abortion in El Salvador, and for the release from prison of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez. In 2015, she was one of ten people whose cases comprised the global Amnesty campaign Write for rights, and more than 230 000 people across the world called for her release
She gave birth to a stillborn child, was accused of abortion, and sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder. After ten years of imprisonment, she was released. Despite the danger it implies, she fights for other women subjected to the same treatment and for a change in abortion laws. She fought from inside the prison, and she continues to fight after her release. The Living History Forum awards this year's Per Anger Prize, the Swedish Government's international prize for supporting human rights and democracy, to Teodora del Carmen Vásquez from El Salvador.
Getting the imprisoned women released is what drives me. The Per Anger Prize is not primarily a prize to me; it is a symbol of the continued fight for human rights for women, says Teodora del Carmen Vásquez.
For many years, Amnesty International has campaigned to overturn the ban on abortion in El Salvador, and for the release from prison of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez. In 2015, she was one of ten people whose cases comprised the global Amnesty campaign Write for rights, and more than 230 000 people across the world called for her release.
El Salvador has a total ban on abortions. The ban does not reduce the number of abortions, but leads to thousands of women and girls going through illegal, unsafe abortions, disproportionately affecting young and poor women. Women who have had miscarriages or obstetric complications face real risks of imprisonment. Today, at least 25 women are serving prison terms for murder after obstetric complications.
To acknowledge the devastating impact of restrictive abortion laws on women's lives in El Salvador, the 2018 Per Anger Prize, awarded by The Living History Forum on behalf of the Swedish Government, goes to Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, nominated by the Swedish section of Amnesty International.
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez is hugely brave and has an admirable commitment. Despite the risks, she has continued to fight for women’s rights and for the rights of the women who remain in prison. Her struggle for the right of women to make decisions over their own bodies is a true inspiration across the Americas region where several countries have very restrictive abortion laws, says Anna Lindenfors, Director Amnesty Sweden.
The prize winner was born in 1983 in the Ahuachapán region in El Salvador. Today, she is a recognized women's rights activist in her country, working together with organizations like Amnesty International to change the abortion laws and to provide support to other women in prison.
During the time that I spent in prison paying the price for something I didn’t do, I suffered greatly. I am the reflection of the suffering of the women and girls in El Salvador. As a woman who has lived this experience, I commit myself to working for other women, especially in rural areas such as the region I am from. My commitment is to talk with my people in the place where I live and talk about the realities here in El Salvador. We need to help each other so that other women and girls don’t suffer the way those of us who are part of Las 17+ have suffered, says Teodora del Carmen Vásquez.
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez will be receiving the Per Anger Prize on 8 November at a ceremony at Göta Lejon Theatre in Stockholm. The prize will be presented by the responsible minister. The prize winner will be available for interviews in Stockholm 5–7 November.
For years, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was an informal spokesperson of Las 17 from inside prison. Her journey started in July 2007. One day she was brutally attacked by unknown men on the street, who hit her in the stomach. Some days later she suffered an obstetric emergency while at work. She called for help but the ambulance never came. Instead, the police arrived and detained her. In 2008 she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide”, following a flawed trial. Her family did not have the financial means to pay for an effective legal defence.
In February 2018, after more than 10 years in prison, her sentence was commuted and she was released. Her commutation was granted “for reasons of justice and equity,” pointing out the injustices in the processes that convicted her.
Early in the morning on the 15th of February Teodora del Carmen Vásquez left the women’s prison Ilopango. Her family and organizations and supporters met her and welcomed her, among them Amnesty International, which has continued to fight for her freedom during the years.
About the Per Anger Prize
The Per Anger Prize is the Swedish Government’s international prize for supporting human rights and democracy. The prize was established in 2004 to acknowledge the initiatives of Per Anger during World War II, when he saved Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust. The Living History Forum has been commissioned by the Government to award the prize annually.
The following ten international organisations have participated in the nomination for the Per Anger Prize: Amnesty, Afrikagrupperna, Civil Rights Defenders, Diakonia, the International Commission of Jurists, Kvinna till Kvinna, the UNA Sweden, Reporters Without Borders, Swedish PEN, and the Church of Sweden.
More information about the Per Anger Prize can be found at https://www.levandehistoria.se/perangerpriset
Tags: El Salvador, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, Defenders DDHH, Rights of women and girls, Sexual and reproductive rights.
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