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Zimbabwe: Feminist Movements fight for Safe Abortion Rights

09.05.2024 | By Mary Taruvinga


Feminist movement pushes for safe abortions in Zimbabwe; over 70 000 illegal terminations are performed yearly 

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A LOCAL feminist movement, Katswe Sistahood, has urged Zimbabwean authorities to expand the circumstances under which pregnancies can be terminated stating that it is sad that lives continue to be lost due to unsafe abortions.

The remarks come at a time when debate over the country’s abortion law has increased with some surveys conducted so far showing that the majority of youths wish for the relaxation of abortion laws.

Abortion in Zimbabwe is available under limited circumstances.

The current Termination of Pregnancy Act permits abortion if the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman or threatens to permanently impair her physical health, if the child may be born with serious physical or mental defects, or if the fetus was conceived as a result of rape or incest.

In an interview on the sidelines of a media engagement on Friday, Katswe Sistahood Senior Programmes Officer, Otilia Chinyani said unsafe abortions were rampant and women and girls continue to die.

“We have heard a lot of tales from women. Some use traditional concoctions, some use herbs and roots to terminate pregnancies.

“They also give various reasons for termination of pregnancy. Some will be considering their age, some will still be in school and others say that they did not get access to contraceptives for them to avoid falling pregnant,” Chinyani said.

“In the end, they opt for unsafe abortions, and the result, in serious scenarios, is that women and girls die or get physically impaired.

“Given this background, we are working with other stakeholders, and we are pushing to have the law adjusted so that circumstances under which one can terminate a pregnancy are expanded.

“The present law was enacted in the 1970s and what was evolving during that time is different from what is prevailing.

“Still on that, our main purpose and expectation is that these unwanted pregnancies should be avoided in the first place,” she added.

It is reported that an estimated 70,000 illegal abortions are performed in Zimbabwe each year.

In Zimbabwe, an abortion may only be performed by a medical practitioner in an institution designated by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, with written permission of the hospital superintendent or administrator.

Feminist movements also complain that the process is cumbersome and time-consuming.

For instance, for the abortion procedure to be performed, two medical practitioners who are not from the same medical partnership or institution must certify that the requisite conditions indeed exist.

In cases of unlawful intercourse, (rape, incest, or intercourse with a mentally handicapped woman), a court magistrate of the jurisdiction in which the abortion would take place must issue a certificate certifying that the pregnancy was probably the result of unlawful intercourse as defined in the Act.

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