6 June 2012

Rwanda: Pro-Abortion Activists Step Up Fight

CIVIL society organisations (CSO) have disputed Article 165 of the draft penal code that stipulates several clauses on abortion.

Yesterday, Health Development Initiative (HDI), an NGO and civil society grouping that sparked off the abortion debate, held a press briefing where they urged the government to comply with the UN Special Rapporteur by fully decriminalising abortion.

HDI also called for reducing penalties handed to female victims of rape, forced marriage and incest when they abort, which they say, is not compliant with Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol of which Rwanda is signatory.

The article requires government to 'protect the reproductive rights of women by authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus'.

Edouard Munyamaliza, the Chairperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform said in April that the bill had taken a wrong path that went against Rwanda's cultural values.

Munyamaliza asserted that the rights of unborn children should never be abused under the guise of women's rights, which is contrary to what ARBEF and HDI advocate for.

The Chairperson of Transparency Rwanda, Immaculée Ingabire, said there was no rationale in removing the death penalty and yet lagalise abortion, pointing out that both were forms of killing.

Cassien Havugimana, the Programmes Manager of HDI, termed as "burdensome" the condition that a competent court confirms whether a woman became pregnant as a result of incest, rape or forced marriage, calling for the purging of the clause.

The coordinator of Safe Abortion Action Fund under the Rwandan Association for the Promotion of Family Welfare (ARBEF), Chantal Umuhoza, called for the amendment of the contentious article, adding that unsafe abortions lead to complications and death. She agitated for decriminalisation of the practice saying it is a woman's right.

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