Human rights activists and reproductive health experts have said restrictive laws on abortion are contributing to high levels of maternal mortality in Africa and other developing countries.
Professor Jaldesa Guyo, a lecturer at University of Nairobi, Kenya, told a group of journalists who were drilled in sexual reproductive health rights in Nairobi, last week that different researches have revealed consistent high numbers of deaths among African women due to maternal issues.
“It is a fact that there are several reasons why women in Africa continue to die due to maternal complications; unsafe abortion is one of the reasons. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear and acknowledge about liberalising policies on abortion,” he said.
Guyo also said it is important for countries to embrace comprehensive sexual education and imparting it to the youth to make information about contraceptive methods available to all.
He, however, observed that unwanted pregnancies still occur after putting up all measures which now call for provisions of options to the women to have safe abortions.
“No woman should die due to complications from unsafe abortion,” he said.
Centre for Reproductive Rights senior regional director Eveno Pondo said many countries in Africa have ratified various sexual and reproductive health instruments although they do not honour them.
She said it is incumbent upon citizens to hold their countries’ leadership accountable if they do not domesticate treaties that they signed at the international level.
“On sexual reproductive health rights, the majority of African countries signed the Maputo protocol that mandates them to reform the restrictive laws on abortion, but many countries are yet to honour this,” she said.
Speaking during the same meeting, a community leader from Bungoma, Kenya, Mariam Nafula Makokha, said much as they appreciate the problem of unwanted pregnancies, as leaders they do not think reforming laws on abortion is the answer.
Said Makokha: “We encourage our girl to avoid becoming sexually active early. We believe being married and then becoming sexually active can go a long way in helping minimising cases of unsafe abortion.”
In Malawi, a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute and College of Medicine established that an estimated 141 044 induced abortions occurred in the country in 2015.
Malawi has strict laws on abortion which only allow it to occur when the life of the mother is at risk.n