Salvadorean Teodora Vasquez -who served a sentence handed under draconian anti-abortion laws after suffering a miscarriage- poses during an interview with AFP in San Salvador on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP)

SAN SALVADOR, – Teodora Vasquez spent 10 years in jail for murder in El Salvador. Her crime? Giving birth to a dead baby. Now a new film tells her story and highlights the plight of 16 women still serving long sentences, as pressure grows for legislative change.

Vasquez, who served more than one-third of her 30-year sentence, will present the 90-minute documentary “Fly So Far” at a festival in Sweden later this month.

“After being locked up for so long, you can fly, you can go far,” Vasquez told AFP in an interview, explaining the film’s title.

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The 36-year-old was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2008 after being convicted of the aggravated homicide of her baby, who was born dead.

Sixteen women are currently in prison in El Salvador for what human rights groups describe as obstetric emergencies. Under Salvadoran law however, they were convicted of having abortions.

“Even if those 16 women regain their freedom, we will continue the fight because we don’t want future generations to end up in jail because of the kind of obstetric problem that happened us,” said Vasquez.

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Human rights organizations are calling for an end to El Salvador’s total ban on abortion, under which women and girls are routinely imprisoned, even after enduring stillbirths and miscarriages.

The film by Swiss-Salvadoran director Celina Escher hopes to highlight their plight on the world stage.


– Overcrowded jails –

Escher began filming inside the overcrowded Women’s Prison in the eastern suburbs of San Salvador in 2017. The prison has a capacity of 1,200 inmates but as recently as February housed 2,229.

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The film focuses on Maria Teresa Rivera, who was given political asylum in Sweden after being jailed in El Salvador.

It portrays her life inside as well as after her release, showing the difficulties experienced by these women integrating back into society, particularly given the stigma of the crime for which they were convicted.

Vasquez, who will be in Stockholm to launch the film on September 23, has become an outspoken human rights defender. (AFP)



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