Advocacy group calls for decriminalization of abortion

The Rwanda Association for Family Welfare (ARBEF), a local advocacy group, believes that while the law on abortion has been revised, it should be reformed even further.  This was said during a workshop held on Wednesday to discuss sexual and reproductive health of young people and safe abortion, held in partnership with the Health Development Initiative (HDI). The two organizations are implementing a project to carry out advocacy on safe abortion services in Rwanda.
Chantal Umuhoza, the Project Coordinator of ARBEF.
Chantal Umuhoza, the Project Coordinator of ARBEF.

The Rwanda Association for Family Welfare (ARBEF), a local advocacy group, believes that while the law on abortion has been revised, it should be reformed even further.

This was said during a workshop held on Wednesday to discuss sexual and reproductive health of young people and safe abortion, held in partnership with the Health Development Initiative (HDI). The two organizations are implementing a project to carry out advocacy on safe abortion services in Rwanda.

According to Chantal Umuhoza, the Project Coordinator of ARBEF, the project’s main goal is to build civil society’s awareness of young people’s need for safe abortion.

“The law on abortion has been revised but there are still a few issues that need to be sorted to create a favorable environment for young people to have access to safe abortions. Safe abortion shouldn’t only be limited to victims of rape and incest. There are so many situations that lead to unwanted pregnancies, we are calling for the possibility of safe abortion,” Umuhoza said.

She added that there was still a lot of ignorance and lack of information on issues of sexuality affecting the youth that people need to be aware of.

Oussein Rugaza, the ARBEF Director for Advocacy and Resource Mobilization said that many girls today are detained in prison because of they have undergone abortions.

She told The New Times that the two-day workshop would help them share ideas and draw an action plan on how various organizations should go ahead with the advocacy of safe abortion.

Doctor Eugen Rwabuneza, the President of Integrated Family Care Organization, said many girls are losing their lives due to unsafe abortion and there was need for a solution.

“We should encourage abstinence, but if it fails, then there are preventive measures such as use of condoms and contraceptives. However, we shouldn’t watch as girls die due to unsafe abortions. Decriminalizing abortion will save lives,” Rwabuneza said.

According to statistics from ARBEF, 750,000 people have died globally from botched abortions since 1994, which translates to 13 percent of global maternal mortality rates.

Article 161  of the draft Penal Code states that any person who carries out  self-induced abortion shall be  liable to a term of imprisonment of 1 to 3 years and a fine of between Rwf 50,000 and Rwf 200.000. Article 162 states that in the event of mutual consent, a person who performs the abortion shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of two years to five years.

The exemption from criminal liability provided under Article 164, item 1 to 3, shall be permitted only if the woman who seeks abortion submits to the doctor a certificate issued by a competent court.

Expressing her thoughts on the advocacy, Leticia Isimbi 22, a student at Mudende Adventist University, says abortion should only be permitted in situations where the mother’s health is at risk, that it is unfair for only the girl to be arrested over abortion.

“The man who makes her pregnant should as well face charges since he was involved in making her pregnant”, she said.

maria.kaitesi@newtimes.co.rw

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