Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), Alliance forWomen Advocating for Change (AWAC), SAfAIDS and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) on 28th September led hundreds of other African Rights Organizations in joining the rest of the World to commemorate this year’s International Safe Abortion Day.
The African Non-Governmental Organizations joined the commemorations with a call for Safe, Legal and Accessible Abortion in the continent.
The call comes despite other countries including Malawi still criminalizing abortion.
In a joint statement released on 28th September signed by ARASA Director Michaela Layton, AWAC Executive Director Kyomya Macklean and SAfAIDS Executive Director Lois Chingandu the bodies says continued criminalisaztion of abortion is significantly contributing to the high maternal mortality rate in Africa.
“Laws that criminalize abortion do not prevent women and girls from having abortions, they only make them unsafe,” said the ARASA Director in the statement.
Added Clayton: “This contributes to significantly high Martenal Mortality rates in Africa. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 9% of maternal deaths were caused by unsafe abortions whilst globally 62% of all unsafe abortions results in deaths”.
On her part, AWAC Director Kyomya said enabling women living with HIV and those who use drugs or do sex work to avoid the complications of unsafe abortions is a vital component of ensuring they have access to comprehensive Reproductive Health Care.
“Health Care Providers must be able to discuss pregnancy termination in a non-directive and non-judgemental way and be able to refer women to safe legal abortion services,” Kyomya said.
SAfAIDS Director Chingandu said people should not forget the call in Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of not leaving anyone behind.
“The Sustainable Development Goals call on us to leave no one behind and seek universal Health Coverage for all. This include increasing life expectancy and reducing the causes of maternal mortality. How will we achieve this when we continue to be guided by moral, religion or other prejudices at the expenses of our lives? We need to do the right thing and provide universal access to safe, legal and accessible abortion for women and adolescent girls,” Chingandu is quoted in the statement.
According to the rights experts, criminalisation of abortion also contribute to a high level of stigma which negatively affect women’s willingness to ask for information about abortion, access legal abortion and and seek post-abortion care even where abortion is legal.
For instance in Malawi, abortion remains illegal but the government in May this year released and gazetted the long awaited bill to the general public.
The Bill was released after some two Religious Bodies took it to the street demanding that the executive should reject calls for possible Law Reforms on abortion.
Before the ammendments, government allowed termination of pregnancy only when the life of the mother is in danger.
But several quarters believe that abortion can take place when there are cases of Rape, Defilement, Incest, Gross Foetal Malformations among other factors that may jeopardise physical or mental health of the expectant mother.
In the case of Malawi, Human Rights Activists argues that it is against the constitution to stop women or girls from carrying out an abortion.
Section 20(1) of the Constitution of the Republicof Malawi protects it’s citizens from any form of descrimination.
Under Articles 21, 35 and 32, everyone also has a right to personalprivacy, Freedom of expression and Freedom of association.
So far, according to the statement the African Rights Organisations released, four African countries namely Cape Verde, Mozambique, South Africa and Tunisia allow for the termination of pregnancy without restrictions of any kind but with limits according to the gestation while Zambia permits abortionon Socio and Economic grounds.
ARASA and the rest of the Human Rights Groups believe that safe abortion along with comprehensive sexuality education and a range of contraceptives, the Social good outcomes are numerous including pummeting maternal mortality and mobidity and significantly reduce rates of Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI’s) and teenage pregnancies.
It also encourages and increases number of educated women and girls.
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