QUITO – Spanish physician Xiana Yago is in Ecuador to present her documentary “Las mujeres deciden” (Women decide), a piece in which she issues an alert about the dangers of remaining silent in the face of sexual violence, and in which she tells about unwanted teen pregnancies and clandestine abortion in the Andean nation.
The 32-year-old became interested in the issue in 2007, when she was interning at a Quito hospital and, later, during her master’s study in Madrid, she began writing a documentary about clandestine abortion in Ecuador.
In an interview with EFE, she said that during her internship in Quito “it really made an impression on me” to see how many women came to the hospital after clandestine abortions “that they caused in some way: with poison, introducing objects, with blows.”
And she decided to investigate the matter, to talk about it so that it becomes visible in the small South American country, where the state guarantees “the right to life starting at conception” and where abortion is legal only if the mother’s life or health are endangered or if the pregnancy results from the rape of a mentally disabled women, she said.
In 2013, Yago managed to get the support of the National Film Council and one year later she filmed the documentary in which she included the testimonials of women who had been abused and those who were seeking clandestine abortions.
Among the figures provided in the promotional materials for the documentary is the World Health Organization’s 2010 estimate that each year in Ecuador some 125,000 women undergo clandestine abortions.
The one-hour documentary tells the story of Maria, a Spanish doctor conducting an investigation of teen pregnancy and clandestine abortion in a hospital in Ecuador’s Amazon region, where she meets Yanina, who decides to illegally abort the fetus she is carrying.
As her investigation progresses, Maria finds that sexual violence is behind the unwanted pregnancies.
“Forty percent of the girls and teens who are sexually abused” do not report it, she says.
Via the stories of three women, the documentary, which cost $250,000 to produce, deals with the issue of sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, teen pregnancy and clandestine abortion in Ecuador.
Citing figures from the Ecuadorian Statistics and Census Institute, Yago said that “98 percent of sexual abuse occurs within the family circle and, when that occurs, the families don’t support the girls, or don’t believe them, or decide, for one reason or another, to support the abuser.”
Those figures motivated her to create the documentary so that society “questions” what is happening and seeks ways to prevent it, although, she says, Ecuadorian society views women in a “very sexist and very critical” way.
The film won the award for best editing at the Wales International Documentary Festival in April.