Step-father arrested in rape of girl, 10, who became pregnant and was denied abortion

People protest against child abuse, demanding stronger penalties for violators, in downtown Asuncion Paraguay, Monday, May 11, 2015. The nation has been split over the case of a pregnant 10-year-old girl denied an abortion. The argument over the girl has drawn unusually strong attention to the issues of child abuse and abortion, which is banned in all cases except when the mother's life is in danger. Police said Saturday they had arrested the girl's fugitive stepfather, who is accused of raping the child. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

PARAGUAY (KRON) — A man in Paraguay accused of raping his 10-year-old step daughter, who became pregnant and is actively being denied an abortion, was arrested Saturday, according to police.

Benitez Gilberto Zarate, 42, fled when the accusations were brought against him, but denied any wrong doing to police and the ensuing media storm, according to a report on CNN. Upon arrest the man demanded a DNA test on the unborn child in hopes of exoneration.

Many are fighting so the 10-year-old victim can be granted an abortion, which up to this point has been denied by South American officials.

Under Paraguayan law, abortion is illegal unless the pregnancy directly endanger’s the mother’s life. The Paraguayan Ministry is steadfast in their belief that there’s no indication that this child, who is now 22 weeks pregnant, faces any health risks.

The girls’ family along with the help of Amnesty International is pressing for access to the medical procedure. Amnesty International says her age, as well as circumstances of her pregnancy should be granted an exception. They argue the pregnancy poses health risks to young girls whose bodies aren’t fully developed.

Amnesty is also advocating for less restrictive abortion laws, especially in cases of rape.

“The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture,” Amnesty International official Guadalupe Marengo said this week. “The Paraguayan authorities cannot sit idly by while this young rape survivor is forced to endure more agony and torment.”

Doctors learned the girl was pregnant when she was brought into the hospital with abdominal pains on April 21st. Upon discovering she was pregnant, a criminal investigation ensued.

Authorities allege that she was raped by her stepfather, and that the pregnancy stems from that crime, according to the prosecutor in charge of the case, Monalisa Munoz.

The girl’s mother has also been arrested, according to Munoz. Her charges include breaching her duty of care, Amesty International said.

The girl’s mother has asked officials to allow her daughter to have an abortion, but was denied publicly by Paraguayan Health Minister Antonio Barrios, who said the pregnancy would continue.

The girl has been taken to a shelter where the state will oversee her care.

“The Justice Department will determine later who will have custody of the mother and child after (the birth),” Barrios said.

According to a 2013 United Nations report, 2 million girls under the age of 14 give birth in developing countries yearly, many of whom suffer long-term or fatal health problems.

An estimated 70,000 adolescents die each year as a result of complications of pregnancy or childbirth.

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