Safe & Legal Abortion is an SRH Right: Save Adolescent Girls & Young Women Lives, Act Now!

 # Safe Abortion


� Unwanted pregnancies have a profound effect on the lives of women and girls; their ability and right to make choices about their lives. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), safe abortions are one of the safest and simplest medical procedures in existence. Yet, with abortion mostly illegal and highly frowned upon in most Southern African countries, unsafe abortion accounts for 10% to 13% of maternal mortality in the region.

� In the Southern African attitudes survey, nearly half (45% women and 44% men) said they agreed or strongly agreed that a woman had a right to terminate her pregnancy within the first trimester. Attitudes towards abortion are changing!

� 28 September is International Safe Abortion Day. The day was first celebrated as a day of action for decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1990. In 2011, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) declared 28 September as an international day. The day’s name was changed to International Safe Abortion Day in 2015. 2016 was the biggest International Safe Abortion Day ever celebrated.1

� From 5 to 9 November, SADC senior officials and Ministers of Health will meet in Windhoek, Namibia to adopt the revised SADC SRHR Strategy 2019-2030 and its related score card.

� This takes place against the backdrop of the global #Women’sMarch; #MeToo; #TimesUp and related regional campaigns such as the #IWearWhatILike and #TotalShutdown.

� The 2018 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer put a spotlight on the inter-linked gender justice issues of our time including menstrual health, comprehensive sexual education, teenage pregnancies, safe abortion, maternal health, GBV, HIV and Aids, and sexual diversity.

� SAfAIDS, cluster lead of the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance, is leading the campaign for preventing unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. This is part of the SAfAIDS Transforming Lives – Time for Change, Time for Action campaign supported by Sweden. SAfAIDS calls for policy changes to enable women to make choices about their bodies.









Abortion on demand (yes/no)

Conditions under which an abortion may be granted


Childs life


Time frame




Post abortion care


Mothers life

Mothers Mental state


South Africa

Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act No. 1 of 20082

Yes – specifies available to any woman who wants to terminate out of choice, including counselling.





Within the first trimester.

Right to terminate without consent of other parties apart from medical practitioners.



Amended Penal Code






On demand up to 12 weeks;

incest, up to 16 weeks; foetal anomalies, up to 24 weeks.

A certified practitioner must

perform the termination at designated facilities.3



















Termination of Pregnancy Act of


If conception is deemed


Only under circumstances where the life of the


Where the child will suffer from


A magistrate must grant


Yes – In 2012, policy approved for women







1977, Chapter 15: 104



Termination of Pregnancy Act, 13  No October 1972


unlawful (instances of rape). mother is in danger.


✓ If the pregnancy will cause death.




✓ Mental or physical damage to the woman.


complications after birth.


✓Child at risk of mental and physical deformities.





Once three medical practitioners have agreed.


who undergo illegal abortions to receive medical post-abortion care without being referred to the police.








Penal Code (Amendment) Act,   No


✓Rape or incest.


✓ If the mother’s life is at risk or may cause harm ✓Where a woman has been deemed


✓ If the unborn child will suffer  Termination has to be                                                            No


1991 – Section 160


to her mentally.


to be an idiot or an imbecile as per


or later develop physical or  performed before 16











The Penal Code (2010)6                     No




Criminal Code Amendment Act 20127


✓ If pregnant due to incest or rape.


✓To save the life of a pregnant woman.



✓ To save the life of a pregnant woman; or from permanent physical damage.


the Immorality Act of 1957, which makes sex with her illegal.


mental abnormality.

✓ To prevent the birth of a child who will be seriously physically or mentally handicapped.

✓ If the foetus may suffer

severe malformation or abnormalities.








The pregnancy is within 14 weeks and the girl is younger than the age of 16.



Performed by a registered         No medical professional, with the written opinion of another registered medical professional.







Abortion and Sterilization Act 2 of  No


Where two other medical


✓The pregnancy poses a threat to the physical  ✓Where a woman has been deemed


✓ The unborn child is at risk of


Two medical practitioners must  No




practitioners confirm that the woman has been raped or is a victim of incest.


and mental health of the pregnant.


to be an idiot or an imbecile as per the Immorality Act of 1957, which makes sex with her illegal.8


a serious mental or physical deformity and handicap.


approve in writing that the pregnancy is a risk.










Termination of Pregnancy Act,     No




Penal Code10


When a woman’s life is deemed to be in danger

or if the cost of carrying the foetus is greater than the pregnant woman’s physical and mental health.


Woman is at risk of death, pregnancy threatens





Pregnancy threatens the mental and


Termination can be carried out

if the child is at risk of serious mental and physical deformities.9


If three medical practitioners      No

agree in good faith, termination can be undertaken at Victoria Hospital, Mahe.



the mental and physical wellbeing of the woman.  physical wellbeing of the pregnant






The Constitution


Only possible where the life of the pregnant                                                                                                                                                                                                                     No

woman is in danger.11













Penal Code and The Law            No Commission of Malawi has drafted

the Termination of Pregnancy Bill to legalise safe abortion for women in the event of incest, rape or severe foetal abnormalities.12 Penal Code 201413


Currently, Malawi only allows abortion to save a woman’s life.





Termination only permissible to save the life of a






















The Constitution



Abortion is illegal except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger.14





10                                                                           No




14 (UN Publication)







Reproductive Health and Family


Abortion under any


In Criminal Procedure law, an abortion can be                                                                                                                                                                                                                               No


Planning Law 2017


circumstance remains illegal. performed to save the life of a woman.


The mapping of laws shows that

� All SADC countries provide for abortion in some circumstances, but this ranges from South Africa and Mozambique, where abortion is available on demand, to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius and Namibia, where abortion is only available in certain circumstances; to Seychelles, Tanzania, eSwatini, Malawi, Angola and DRC where abortion is only available in extremely limited circumstances, to Madagascar, where abortion is almost totally outlawed.

� In South Africa, despite strong pro-abortion laws, access to the service remains a challenge, with only 7% of the country’s health facilities providing abortions.15 Research shows that many health workers refuse to perform the procedure, with government unable to do anything about it. Information about where and how to acquire the service remains limited.16

�In Lesotho, government acknowledges the devastating effects of illegal backyard abortions on girls and women but still will not relent to make abortion legal in the country. Instead, it surreptitiously advises women to go across the border into South Africa where abortion is legal. The irony is not lost on human rights lawyer Lineo Tsikoane, who has said of the Ministry of Health: “They know abortion is illegal, but they’re telling us to advise girls to go elsewhere, and [yet] won’t change our own law.”

�The most common circumstances in which abortion is provided for are incest and rape; related to that, threat to the mother’s mental well-being. Evidence of possible child deformities may also be grounds for abortion.

� While allowing for abortion in limited circumstances, Zimbabwe passed

a law in 2012 that allows for post-abortion care. A much more cost




#She Decides











effective option would be to provide for safe abortion.

� It is clear that many of the laws governing abortion in SADC are inherited from the colonial era and are out of sync with modern rights-based laws. For example the Abortion and Sterilization Act 2 of 1975 in Namibia dates back to 1975. One of the few grounds for abortion is where “a woman has been deemed to be an idiot or an imbecile as per the Immorality Act of 1957, which makes sex with her illegal.”

� On 24 February 2018, Angola‘s parliament approved an amendment to the abortion law, making all abortions, without exception, illegal and punishable by between four to ten years’ imprisonment. This is part of the process of replacing Angola’s 1886 penal code. Parliamentary debate on the amendment stalled following a public outcry over it, leading to the ruling party proposing a revised version of the legal amendment. The revised version retained the legality of abortion in cases of rape or maternal health risk.17

� In December 2017, Madagascar passed the Reproductive Health and


Family Planning Law after many years of advocacy to revoke colonial policy that prohibited promotion of contraception. The law recognises reproductive health and family planning as basic human rights for all, irrespective of age. It defines “counselling and family planning services for sexually active teens, married or unmarried” as one of the necessary reproductive health services. The law also provides for family planning education and outreach, community-based distribution of services, improved family planning technical capacity in health facilities, and availability of commodities, including emergency contraception.”18 But parliament rejected efforts by the Ministry of Public Health to make amendments to the family planning law to allow for therapeutic abortion. As a result, abortion remains illegal in Madagascar under all circumstances, with virtually no exception.


Increasingly, women have turned to social media, in particular Facebook, to look for illegal abortion services. This can lead to serious complications and death if they receive the service from unqualified people and in unhygienic conditions (CNN 2018).








15  Skosana, I (2017), ‘Less than 7% of health facilities nationwide offer abortions – Amnesty International’, available at: 02-14-00-only-260-health-facilities-nationwide-offer-abortions-amnesty-international/ (accessed 11 June 2018)

16  Amnesty International (2018), Amnesty International Report 2017/2018, Amnesty International, London

17  The Citizen (2017), ‘Angola Backs Down on Total Abortion Ban’ available at abortion-ban/ (accessed 1 April 2018)

18 Accessed 20 June 2018

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#SheDecidesSouthernAfrica #TheTimeIsNow!

By Lois Chingandu and Colleen Lowe Morna


Around the globe, 2017 will be remembered for the groundswell of women’s rights activism that began with spontaneous Women’s Marches as President Donald Trump took office in the USA, and gained momentum with the #MeToo, #TimesUp and #SheDecides campaigns. In a world where information moves with the speed of light, Southern Africa had its own variants to these campaigns – like the #MenAreTrash, #NotInMyName, #JusticeForKarabo #IWearWhatILike and #TotalShutDown, to name a few.


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Zimbabwean Church Leader Encourages Congregants to Seek Medical Attention

By Elizabeth Ndhlovu-Dumbreni


Many a time, religious and faith healers have been known to dissuade their followers from seeking medical attention, claiming spiritual healing through prayer, even in the face of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and HIV among others. But for one Zimbabwean religious leader, the case is different. Popular Chitungwiza-based Apostle, Cornelius Chikuhwa, of Living Word Citadel church, broke new ground recently, when he taught about the upside of seeking medical attention.

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Gardening Project Brings Felix Village Families Together

By Elizabeth Ndhlovu-Dumbreni

Project participants pose for a photograph after a hard day’s work at the nutrition garden

Felix Garden is an Irish Aid-funded project that was initiated by the villagers of ward 10 in Bubi District, Matabeleland North. Felix is a fairly young resettlement area comprising families that are fighting for a common goal – to help eradicate the scourge of HIV and gender-based violence (GBV).

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Where There Is Love There Is No Gender-Based Violence

By Elizabeth Ndhlovu-Dumbreni

Bubi chief’s representative, Bowen Sibanda speaks out against gender-based violence

Umuzi we Ndebele wakhiwa nge nduku, so goes the old Ndebele adage. Loosely translated, this statement encourages men to use violence against their wives and children as a way of maintaining order or disciplining the family. The chief’s right hand man Bowen Sibanda says this commonly held belief has led to the high incidence of violence against women and children in Bubi District.

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God Loves Me Too

I have travelled a long road from the day I discovered I was HIV positive in 2002. When I found out, I had to be strong for my children – they were what kept me going Every day that I woke up and found myself walking, talking, laughing and carrying on with life was a motivation. I understood that I was the only one responsible for my continued health.

I quickly learnt that being HIV positive is a health condition that can be managed, so I chose to take charge of my own health. I now focus on working hard to ensure that all my children have all their needs and that I am there for them. I am a proud mother, and grandmother. My own mother is 75 and still walking; she has seen me through it all and I am following her lead in ageing gracefully – with HIV – and with the support of all my family members.

Stigma was still rife and when I publicly disclosed that I was HIV positive I came face to face with it. I also experienced my fair share of discrimination and for quite some time my life was never the same. I had to adjust to both living with HIV and to to it being public knowledge that I have the virus. Dating after the diagnosis and my public disclosure was a challenge. Today, with the recognition that treatment is prevention this is becoming less of an issue and we must respect and love HIV positive women.

Disclosing my HIV positive status was a major step that helped me in so many ways. For instance, because I had disclosed I removed the burden of the speculation of others; those who loved to gossip about me the moment I turned my back had nothing more to talk about. I said to myself, ‘I am a career woman and a model and being HIV positive is not a barrier to my success and my future’. I could not change the past; so much had been said and written about me, both negative and positive. Yes there were times when I broke down, but I never cried in public. I always put on a brave face and continued to look the part as a model.

From the day, I was introduced to anteretroviral therapy way back in 2002, I diligently took my treatment and made sure my whole family was aware; they all acted as my treatment buddies and became my major support. As for me, I studiedy everything I could find about HIV and AIDS and what it meant to live with the virus. I came to the point where I realised that ‘Yes I have HIV, but the future still has so much to offer me’. Today, HIV infection is still feminised – the highest number of new infections in Zimbabwe today is in young women – and like many ageing HIV positive women, I was infected when I was still young.I became an expert in counselling others on the disease, especially the newly diagnosed who were struggling to cope with their newly discovered status. This gave me a sense of self worth as I realised that I was a positive influence on many people, especially other women who found themselves in the same dilemma. Even some men were inspired by my example. I continue helping people through public speaking and encouraging HIV counselling and testing, educating communities on awareness, prevention and the dangers of early HIV infection.

I became a popular figure. Many times I would be greeted in the street; some would look at me curiously, while others continued to mock. With time, their mockery no longer affected me; I have watched too many friends and relatives die needlessly for fear of getting tested for HIV as an entry point to treatment.  

Now that there is accelerated advocacy to end AIDS by 2030, there is need to continue encouraging people to get tested for HIV and be treated early, so that we fulfill the new strategy of test and treat.

I have been living with HIV for over 15 years now and despite experiencing some tough moments, I never gave up, for I know that fortunes can change and I am healthy. What more can I ask for?

My viral load has been undetectable for many years. Fears of progressing to full blown AIDS are a thing of the past. This also means I am no longer capable of infecting my sexual partner with HIV, but I still encourage dual protection (use of a condom, as well as another means of contraception) to prevent other sexually tranmsitted infections and unintended pregnancy. I never for one day stopped taking my ARV treatment. I was taught that aniretroviral therapy (ART) is for life and I have always made sure that the treatment is in harmony with my metabolism. No-one could convince me to stop taking my ARVs. I have also been blessed with the spiritual support I need for my well-being. I pay attention to my diet, eating healthy, focusing on fruits and vegetables in season and on wholesome unrefined foods. Fruits have vitamins that are good for my immune system while vegetables provide me with the minerals that my body needs. All in all, I try to eat a balanced diet. I have also studied how my body reacts to certain foods such as too much sugar, oil or starch and I try to eat these foods in moderation. I avoid foods that are difficult to digest. All this keeps me healthy.

I make sure I go for my routine medical check-ups and get my treatment refills. I have learnt to manage my treatment, taking it at the same time every day, with plenty of clean water. While my figure has been affected by treatment side-effects, I have also taught myself to wear clothes that conceal the changes in my body shape and I try to look good all the time. After all, the benefits of treatment far outweigh side effects.

My message to young women, is that they must be aware of HIV and protect themselves from infection by always using condoms; multiple sex partners, early sexual debut and inter-generational relationships with older men all increase their risk of HIV. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programmes for adolescents and young women are vital so that they know about HIV and take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

We must advocate for female-controlled HIV prevention strategies and scale up the ‘start free, stay free’ campaign. Communities must address harmful religious and cultural practices that continue to expose women and girls to HIV such as child marriage, widow cleansing, girl pledging and unhealthy polygamous relationships. We must continue to empower the girl child with education to address the poverty that is linked to HIV infection.

I celebrate women’s month with a big smile on my face because women are at the forefront when it comes to health-seeking behaviour, especially around HIV. We want the men to join us to deal with all issues that make us vulnerable to HIV, including violence within families.  

Happy women’s month to all women living with HIV and those who support our cause.

Tendayi Westerhof

Tel. 0774214533

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