By Olga Moraga A. Although she’s 18 years old, age is no obstacle to her when it comes to starting to study again and Maura Torres (a fictitious name to protect her identity) is currently in sixth grade at primary school in the city of Bluefields. With a reflective gaze and a slow and deliberate way of talking, she is quite aware of the consequences of having taken matters into her own hands.
“I was imprisoned for seven months in the Bluefields jail,” explains Maura. “The reason? For defending myself from being sexually harassed by a man who followed me around for months and tried to rape me one day because I wouldn’t pay him any attention… that’s why I say that I’m serving my sentence due to the behaviour of a macho.” As she speaks, her eyes turn red and she stops herself crying by breathing deeply, before continuing with the conversation.
Maura is one of the 35 adolescents participating in a three-day workshop on gender equity and violence prevention given by the Juvenile Penal System’s Technical Follow-Up Office (OTSSPA), the Bluefields Juvenile Penal Court and the National Police’s Juvenile Affairs Directorate, with technical and financial support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
What she remembers about her experience in jail is that she shared a cell with 20 women aged between 23 and 54. “I was the only minor there and almost all of them were in prison for drug offenses,” Maura recalls with great sadness etched across her face.
“This workshop has helped me a lot to understand the macho attitude most men have and to demand respect because we all have the same rights,” she states firmly.
Continuing to share her experience, Maura reflects on how “with the support of the psychologist and sociologist from the Bluefields Juvenile Penal Court, I can now see a positive side of even this bitter experience. I value the beautiful family I’ve got more now. I try to be a better person and choose my friends better.”
As a result of her good behaviour in prison, Maura will complete the rest of her sentence in her own home, on the condition that she does not leave the city.
Due to her age, she is following a special study plan, but is not thinking of giving up on her studies until she achieves her dream of being an agroforestry engineer.
Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast region is being affected by violence, with some particular characteristics rooted in the area’s multiethnicity and its geographical position, which contributes to the movement of drugs and their consumption in the region, which increases the occurrence of crimes. According to data from the National Police Year Book for 2014, the Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region has the highest sexual crime rate in the country, at 116 for every 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 57 per 100,000 people.