Girl, 12, Pregnant After Father's Rape In Jail

Girl, 12, Pregnant After Father's Rape In Jail

A 12-year-old girl is two months' pregnant after being raped for years by her father and others in prison - in a case which has sparked outrage in Bolivia.

There has been criticism over the practice of letting youngsters live behind bars, where they are often with convicted relatives because they have no other family, or both parents are already in jail.

About 1,500 young children and adolescents live in Bolivian prisons with their relatives, according to government figures.

This is a situation that critics say is ripe for the kind of abuse suffered by the young girl, who has been offered psychological counselling.

The child told authorities she was repeatedly raped by her father, uncle and godfather since she was eight years old, prisons director Ramiro Llanos said.

University professor and political analyst Carlos Cordero said the girl's situation was in part the result of the "miserable conditions and neglect of the inmates".

The San Pedro prison in La Paz, where 500 children live with their parents and where the incident took place, is infamous because several years ago, visitors could easily buy cocaine as police turned a blind eye.

Youngsters share living space with violent criminals, including murderers, rapists, gang members and drug dealers.

They witness the rampant use of alcohol and drugs, as well as the bloody fights that frequently erupt.

"It is traumatic to live in a place like this," said Stefano Toricini, a volunteer for an Italian non-governmental organisation who has provided counselling to children at San Pedro for the past decade.

"The kids live in a state of constant psychological pressure, and the culture of violence that pervades prisons is not for children."

Llanos spent part of his childhood living in a jail with his father, a political prisoner of the country's military dictatorship in the 1960s.

He called on police to "stop being so corrupt and stop allowing children in prisons," in comments to the Pagina Siete newspaper.

For Yolanda Herrera, president of the independent Human Rights Assembly, "the problem is not that children are inside prisons - the problem is that there are no state policies for the protection of children."