Rosita Review:  US/ Nicaragua/ Costa Rica 2005

by Fatima Dupres- Griffiths

The brutal human rights violation of the rape of a nine year old girl features in Rosita, included in the Human Rights Watch film festival. Rosa, or Rosita, as she’s referred to in the press, gets pregnant as a result of a traumatic rape attack by a neighbour. What the film shows is the lack of understanding and sympathy for rape survivors generally and especially   those under aged. When seeking an abortion, which is illegal in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, unless it’s to save the mother’s life, the fact of the rape is glossed over and Rosita’s tender aged is seemingly, constantly ignored.  Catholic Church officials miss the point entirely when they offer to take the unwanted child once it’s born. They never question why would a girl of nine wish to give birth to a child  born as a result of a brutal rape? Why would or should any woman have to endure the added trauma and reminder of rape by being forced  to give birth to an infant of terror? These basic human rights issues elude the officers and authorities involved with Rosita’s case. The law is narrowly interpreted without any room for human concern and dignity. How can the well-being of a nine year old not be adversely affected by  surviving a brutal rape, and  the trauma of giving birth less than a year later?

We see naïve officials telling us how healthy and normal Rosita is, as if this state of affairs could ever be normal. They bring toys for the unborn child and encourage Rosita to think about the sex and name of her unborn child. It is frustrating to witness the ignorance and unthinking attitudes of those around her. Rosita is the helpless victim in a situation where the rights of an unborn child resulting from rape is considered more important than the rights of a traumatized, brutalized nine year old rape survivor.

Rosita’s case occurred in January 2003 as news spread throughout Central and South America that a nine year old Nicaraguan girl became pregnant as a result of rape. During the film, people actually speculate about how innocent or fast Rosita was, and even try to  blame  her. They entirely miss the point that she’s only nine years old, demanding the protection of the law and her community, not their adverse judgement. Legally and morally, Rosita is too young to be guilty. She is the victim not the perpetrator of the crime. This point is maddeningly overlooked during much of the advice that Rosita and her parents are given. The only child of illiterate coffee pickers in  Costa Rica, Rosita’s story is hard to tell in Costa Rica itself for fear of reprisals by those who have  no respect for  Nicaraguan workers. This fact compounds Rosita and her family’s treatment and credibility in this vital documentary. Fearing for Rosita’s life and mental well-being, her  poor parents are determined to get an abortion for their daughter. Despite the odds of receiving a rarely granted therapeutic abortion for Rosita, her parents battle with two governments, the medical establishment, and the heirachy of the Catholic Church who seem  not very interested in securing adequate penalties for the perpetrators of rape. They’re all too busy fighting to ensure that abortion of any type is refused on their shores!

Finally, in secret, Rosita was given an abortion, and even now, those who performed it cannot be named. The film shows  an illiterate family coping  with media, lawyers, doctors, psychologists and priests. They ultimately win what’s right for their child, justice and eventual peace in the face of the tragedy of  the rape of a nine year old girl, entitled to love, protection and the respect of her society. Rosita leaves us with hope for humanity.

Since Rosita’s case, in October  2006, Nicaragua’s legislature outlawed all  abortion without exception.

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