Migrant women facing sexual assault are obtaining birth control thanks to this Mexican priest
The journey to the United States from Central American countries is not as simple as climbing a wall, or crossing a border. Many undocumented women and girls making the trip face the threat of sexual assault along the way, and one Mexican priest wants to help.
Father Prisciliano Pereza, who lives in the small town Sonora, Mexico, understands the struggle that women and girls face while journeying to the U.S, which is why Prisciliano helps women obtain contraceptives, the Guardian reports.
“From their place of origin until their destination, there are going to be five to eight people guiding the migrants,” he explained. “It makes women more vulnerable.” Prisciliano started by providing migrants with packs that included “Band-Aids, clippers to pull out cactus spines, and chlorine to purify water.”
But as sexual violence against migrant women and girls increased over the years, he started helping them obtain preventative contraceptives — despite their use being treated as a sin. “It is the lesser of two evils,” Prisciliano said. “Since she cannot prevent violation, she protects herself so that she won’t get pregnant.”
Maria Salinas, who tried crossing the border with her daughter in 2014 told Fronteras that making the trip across the border as a woman is “awful. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Prisciliano forged a relationship with the Santa María pharmacy, located near his church in Altar — a smuggling town in northern Mexico — where he has sent women seeking contraceptives before their journeys.
Maria Jaime Peña, a pharmacist at Santa María, said she often received women asking the same question: “What can I do in case I’m raped, and I don’t want to get pregnant?” Fronteras reported in 2014.
Peña said the pharmacy offers contraceptive injections for less than $4 that can protect women from pregnancy over the course of a month. Women can buy the contraceptives without a prescription.
The rate of women migrants — traveling either alone or with children — has increased in record numbers. The Guardian’s report, citing statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, suggests “a rise of roughly 400% starting in 2012.”
According to a 2014 Fusion investigation, 80 percent of women and girls migrating from Central America and through Mexico were raped on their journey.
“Women and girl migrants, especially those without legal status traveling in remote areas or on trains, are at heightened risk of sexual violence at the hands of criminal gangs, people traffickers, other migrants or corrupt officials,” a 2010 Amnesty International report detailed.
“Unfortunately, the woman who is going to migrate, she knows that she will be violated,” Father Prisciliano told the Guardian. “Life is above everything. Life comes first.”