Safe Abortion: An Urgent need for women!
November 10, 2017
The Right Here Right Now Zimbabwe’s (RHRNzw) efforts towards the achievement of the review of the Termination of Pregnancy Act its prioritization, finalization and implementation by 2020 saw ROOTS in October 2017 embarking on the awareness raising around termination of pregnancy act in Dzivarasekwa targeting young women, parliamentarians and the community at large. Despite the fact that abortion is a crime, Zimbabwe records more than 70 000 illegal abortions a year thus showing a clear and increasing demand for it. Abortion is about allowing women the right to make choices about when they want to have children in relation to their age, financial stability and relationship stability. Across all demographics all can agree that raising a child is not an easy task as it requires social and emotional commitment coupled with financial resources and as such if a person feels they are not ready for a child, it means the pregnancy is unwanted hence there forth conception of a unwanted child will likely result in a child growing in a non-conducive environment without the love, care and stability that a child needs.
The activities sought to reveal how the Top is of paramount importance in creating the adoption of safer health lifestyles amongst women and girls in Zimbabwe. The meetings were graced by parliamentarians, representatives from the ministries of Health and Child Care, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Women Affairs Gender and Community Development and Department of Social Services and the community at large.
Discussions during the mock tribunal
A community dialogue was conducted to sensitise community members on the current provisions of the termination of Pregnancy Act. The community dialogue on TOP was made possible by the realization that many backyard abortions are emanating from social ills such as early pregnancies and prostitution to mention but a few, therefore the call to sensitize the community on advocating for safe termination of pregnancy made the dialogue a success It appears that the Constitution takes a strong anti-abortion stance which previously existed only in statutes but not as a constitutional provision. There are a few exceptional and limited circumstances where abortion is legally permitted. Thus under the Termination of Pregnancy Act, in Zimbabwe an abortion is permitted only:
a) To save the life of the pregnant woman, if the continuation of the pregnancy endangers her life;
b) After rape: when a man has sex with a child above 12 but below 16 years without her consent;
c) Incest: where two individuals are so closely related that they are forbidden to marry by law, religion or culture and they have sex with each other and the woman falls pregnant;
d) Mental handicap: where a man has sexual intercourse with a mentally handicapped woman and she falls pregnant.
The Tribunal sought to strengthen the advocacy drive for safe, legal, inclusive, accessible and affordable abortions by informing community members on the gaps and challenges of ToP so as to enlighten the community and legislators for an informed dialogue. The mock tribunal had two witnesses who had suffered on the hands of unsafe abortion and having to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, challenging the state represented by Justice Masitala (prosecutor) the witnesses represented by L.T.Muradzikwa (lawyer) and Jennifer Muwosha as the (Judge).The tribunal did present issues of young women who are exposed to unsafe abortions and their unmet need for safe abortion whilst discussing on what the laws says about termination of pregnancy and if the community feels that the law should be rectified
The community dialogue and the tribunal reviewed the high need to review the termination of the pregnancy act. Girls and young women present indicated that the act restrict their choices to abort hence they end up opting for back yards abortions. Making abortion illegal also highlighted a class struggle since the rich can always go to other places where it is safer to have an abortion whilst the poor cannot do this, but have to resort to unsafe abortions which can lead to their death. Economic empowerment was also indicated as a major instrument that can reduce unsafe abortion since women will become self-sufficient to look after their families. Inadequate knowledge on sexual reproductive health rights was noted as a contributing factor towards unsafe abortions therefore support on program that promote parent to child communication on sexual reproductive health should be encouraged. One woman attested that,” nowadays if you don’t become your own child’s aunt or uncle no one will do so.” Girls and young women indicated the need for a youth friendly corner was adolescents get information on contraception among other sexual reproductive health information
Community Dialogue Sessions in Dzivarasekwa
The tribunal and the community dialogue acted as a useful advocacy tool as it generated interest from the community and the parliamentarians to rally behind legalizing safe abortions for girls and women. Members in the community also shared the lived realities of unsafe abortions and stigma surrounding it therefore enhancing the need to lobby parliament to push the motion for safe abortion. The parliamentarians present showed commitment to the right to choice and emphasized the importance for citizens’ active participation in government processes through setting up of a petition lobbying to the state ,the genuine call by society for the need for safe abortions