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Raped, Pregnant Girls Are The Focus Of This Searing Photo Project

Photographer Linda Forsell says her project Children Having Children portrays the reality that many Guatemalan girls face.

Posted on August 28, 2015, at 3:55 p.m. ET

Linda Forsell is the creator behind a new series of photographs titled Children Having Children, a look at the harsh reality that many girls in Guatemala face.

Linda Forsell

What shocked the Swedish photographer the most was the "normalization of incest" that happens in many parts of the country.

Linda Forsell

"Eighty-nine percent of the perpetrators abusing girls below 14 are part of the girls' own family or someone close to the girl," she told BuzzFeed News. "And in a quarter of the cases it is her own father." This horrified the photojournalist who added, "the underlying structure is complex, but the practice is excused by the devaluation of these girls.

According to the photojournalist, there are many people who aren't aware of this situation in Guatemala, so she hopes her project will begin a conversation.

Linda Forsell

"I believe this project has a strength in the fact that it can reach people on different levels," Forsell said. "For those who are completely unaware of the existence of the problem, it can start as an eye-opener and hopefully lead to them spreading the word. For those who are already engaged and are knowledgable on gender disparity, the project can provide a steppingstone to start acting."

"They are in a prison without walls where they lack opportunities, have full responsibility for a baby, and most importantly a future, which is in the hands of their parents or husband," Forsell said. "Thus dreams become limited or non-existent."

Linda Forsell

The girls who have received help and support from their families have achieved tremendous progress in the two years that Forsell has worked with them, she said.

Linda Forsell

"One girl did not say a word the first time I met her," she said. "She became pregnant when she was 11, right after her very first period, by her grandfather's brother. She is still shy, but now she has a big gleaming smile on her face when she speaks of her school that she has recently returned to, or when she plays with her friends."

One of the girls was told that she was a bad influence on the other girls at her school when her belly started to show after being raped by a 53-year-old man tied to a tree. Thus, they are continuously punished and stigmatized for what was done to them.

The girls' schools teach them nothing about sexual education or about pregnancies, which is why many of them don't know what's happened to their friends or peers until it happens to them as well.

Linda Forsell
There are strong forces that obstruct education on reproduction and gender equality in Guatemala, since it is believed to be something to be kept within the family. But I believe that teaching girls and boys about the subject would be the strongest prevention against future abuse.

If you would like to learn more about this project, visit Linda Forsell's website here.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.