House puts final touches on draft penal code

President Paul Kagame could, next week, receive the new draft penal code as soon as parliamentary personnel have completed putting the document in the three official languages.

President Paul Kagame could, next week, receive the new draft penal code as soon as parliamentary personnel have completed putting the document in the three official languages.

Earlier this month, the Director of Communications at Parliament, Augustin Habimana, told The New Times that Parliament had approved the draft penal code but technical staff were still translating it into English and French as the initial text was voted for in its Kinyarwanda version.

Abortion is one of the issues that have generated heated debate as MPs reviewed the penal code.  Some civil society organisations argue that the rigidity of the law is why young women revert to dangerous backroom abortions. This is despite the lawmakers’ amendment of the clause on abortion reducing the penalty from 15 years to one year imprisonment.

Some insist that criminalising abortion infringes on women rights saying more lives would be lost if this continues clandestinely. Others argue that abortion is simply wrong.

Enock Nkurunziza, of AJPRODHO-JIJUKIRWA, the Association of Youth for Human Rights and Development, told The New Times that in his view, legalising abortion was harmful.

“My position is personal; I couldn’t support legalisation of abortion. Even in the human rights perspective, the right to life is denied when one aborts,” he said.

However, Cassien Havugimana, the Programmes Manager at Health Development Initiative (HDI), an NGO that organises and promotes community-based healthcare initiatives, wants abortion decriminalised.

He insists that unsafe abortion is a major cause of death and other complications.

“There were many debates on that issue and hopefully, some issues will be changed. The new penal code is not clear enough as they are still criminalising abortion,” he argued.

According to groups such as HDI, previous studies indicate that abortion cases remain high, though they are conducted secretly and women and girls continue to die, a situation that seriously infringes on their rights.

The HDI and others argue that once legalised, instead of aborting secretly, young girls and women will ably access post-abortion medical care, thus saving lives.

james.karuhanga@newtimes.co.rw

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