HEALTH minister Kalumbi Shangula says he can push to legalise abortion in Namibia if he gets enough support from women.
Shangula made these comments in a telephone interview with The Namibian yesterday when he was asked about his stance on legalising abortion in Namibia.
The minister said the issue of legalising the termination of pregnancy on demand must be championed by women themselves because it is their right.
Namibians, mostly women, recently took to social media and revived a call for the government to scrap the country's 45-year-old apartheid-era abortion law.
The petition, which was launched about two weeks ago by Banshee Beauty Boois, is addressed to Shangula and deputy health minister Esther Muinjangue.
The petition initially set a target of 200 signatures which was later raised to 5 000. By Monday afternoon, the petition had acquired 6 453 signatures.
Boois said she emailed the health minister, his deputy and justice minister Yvonne Dausab to inform them of the existence of the petition and that she would keep them updated regarding the progress of the petition and her intention to submit the petition in hard copy once the target number of signatures has been reached.
She is yet to receive confirmation of receipt from the government ministers.
Shangula said: "The issue of termination of pregnancy must not be influenced by politics or religion. Any law which has outlived its purpose can be repealed."
Although Shangula said he is yet to receive the abortion petition which was started last week, he is pro-choice and believes it is about time the anti-abortion law was scrapped.
Meanwhile, Boois said she has entered a coalition with various women's rights and human rights groups and organisations in Windhoek such as Young Feminist Movement and Out-Right Namibia as well as individual activists to discuss and organise the way forward regarding the petition.
She said their intention is to submit the petition to the respective ministries as hard copies as "our intended target has been surpassed in terms of signatures. We currently have collected 6 453 signatures".
The petition underlined that "not only are Namibian women left with no choice but to break the law in order to practise their right of choice, but they are also risking their lives, health and well-being in order to obtain illegal abortions".
Boois said: "The right to be able to access legal abortion in Namibia should be accompanied by education of matters relating to sexual health and reproductive rights as well as consent." Former health minister Libertina Amathila tried to push for the legalisation of abortion but her efforts fell through as she did not receive enough support from women. This is a situation Shangula hopes will be different should he push for the legalisation of abortion.
Shangula's stance is in contrast to that of gender minister Doreen Sioka, who last week said she will not push for legalising abortion as it goes against her Christian beliefs and values. Following her remarks, Sioka was criticised by some abortion supporters on social media for putting her personal values above the national interest.