Kirkland: My message to El Salvador’s Minister of Justice

Guest Column

After suffering a rapid and unresting serious pain at work, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez suffered a stillbirth in 2007. According to Amnesty International, she was arrested by police in El Salvador while laying in a pool of blood and was later sentenced to 30 years for “aggravated homicide,” presumed guilty of “abortion” rather than the victim of pregnancy complications. The letter Amnesty International urges people to send to El Salvador’s Minister of Justice says “Teodora’s trial was flawed and lacking in due process. She was presumed guilty and, being from a poor family, could not afford an effective legal team to represent her … Teodora has already spent over eight years in jail and she is now applying for her sentence to be commuted.”

Along with other students who attended the Write for Rights event on Nov. 13, I wrote to El Salvador’s Minister of Justice to express that her last hope is in his hands. In the letter, I asked that the Minister of Justice take action to ensure Vásquez is immediately released and continue his action to release all other women incarcerated for pregnancy-related complications who have exhausted other legal remedies.

I was told by the President of Amnesty International Case Western Reserve University, third-year student Sarika Uppaluri, that by writing this letter I was joining hundreds of thousands of others around the world in calling for human rights to be respected. By writing this letter of support, I was letting the El Salvador Minister of Justice know that I am taking their injustice personally.

I asked a young lady next to me what made her involved and she responded, “This is my passion, this is what I want to wake up and do everyday.”

She told me that she was a political science major, pursuing a career as an international human rights lawyer. Her presence, along with the snacks and movie about the portrayal of women in media, made the Write for Rights event welcoming and efficient.