Senegalese lawyer Fatou Kiné Camara has branded her country’s abortion law one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. Photograph: Zena Zephinie
A 10-year-outdated woman who is pregnant with twins right after she was raped by a neighbour has been forced to proceed with her pregnancy right after human rights campaigners misplaced their battle to secure a legal route to abortion.
The plight of the woman, who is five months pregnant and lives in Ziguinchor in the south, highlights the hefty cost ladies and youngsters are having to pay for a Napoleonic law on abortion that is nonetheless in force in the former French colony.
“She is going to have to go by means of with the pregnancy,” said Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese females lawyers’ association. “The ideal we can do is hold up strain on the authorities to make certain the woman gets standard scans and totally free health-related care.
“Senegal’s abortion law is one particular of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. A doctor or pharmacist located guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A lady located guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to ten many years.”
Forty ladies were held in custody in Senegal on fees linked to the crimes of abortion or infanticide in the first 6 months of final yr, official figures display. According to estimates, hundreds of ladies die every 12 months from botched unlawful terminations.
“For a termination to be legal in Senegal, 3 medical professionals have to certify that the girl will die unless of course she aborts quickly. Bad folks in Senegal are lucky if they see a single doctor in their lifetime, let alone three,” Camara explained.
“A single healthcare certificate fees 10,000 CFA francs ($ twenty), which is prohibitive. We had a earlier situation of a raped nine-year-outdated who had to go via with her pregnancy. We paid for her caesarean but she died a number of months soon after the infant was born, presumably since the bodily trauma of childbirth was too excellent.”
The women lawyers’ association is lobbying MPs to align Senegal’s abortion legislation with the African charter on women’s rights, which the nation ratified ten many years in the past. Its provisions – legal healthcare abortion in cases of rape and incest, or the place a woman’s physical or mental well being is threatened – have by no means been added to the statute guide.
“The greatest unfairness is that the poor are the victims of our archaic legislation,” stated Camara, a law professor at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. “Any individual with adequate money can very easily have an abortion at a personal clinic. But if you are poor you are expected to go via the legal motions or chance your lifestyle in a backstreet clinic.”
Six many years in the past, the association opened a legal drop-in centre in Dakar to much better deal with such problems. “We all perform for free of charge and we are open to everyone. But it is very clear that women’s and children’s rights are the ones that are most frequently ignored,” Camara said.
The team is skilled in trauma counselling and deals with a range of inquiries, from how to register a birth to in which to hide from an abusive husband. The association can be contacted in person or through a freephone number.
“Most of the calls are from rural men and women and concern residence rights and accessibility to land,” mentioned Aminata Samb, 25, a law graduate who functions with the association. “This morning a female rang to say her husband had married another woman and was no longer taking care of her and her kids. I inform the callers of their legal rights and tell them exactly where to turn, must they want to workout them. But several ladies just want to tell their story again and again. It makes them truly feel much better.”
Muslim Senegal is constitutionally secular, but customary law is in widespread use. At least ten% of girls are married just before 14, and men can have up to 4 wives. But, according to Camara, religion and polygamy are not the lead to of the rights shortfall. “Ignorance is the biggest enemy and it is a dilemma both amongst ordinary men and women and amongst folks they search up to, like religious leaders,” she said.
Because 2008, the women lawyers’ association has trained more than 1,000 parajuristes, or legal lay folks, to boost the managing of this kind of concerns. They are ordinary guys and ladies who have been given a grounding in the law, enabling them to act as a initial port of legal phone in their communities.
Moussinatou Dramé, 29, a principal school teacher, works as a legal lay man or woman in Pikine suburb close to Dakar. “I usually find myself mediating, among a husband and wife or among two sides of a loved ones. I also consider to describe to females the value of registering their children’s births and, if achievable, of getting a civil wedding ceremony, as well as a religious one particular, to improve their legal rights.”
Amadou Aly Kane, a human rights attorney, believes the country’s parajuristes, even though not exclusive in Africa, played a vital role in bettering access to justice for ordinary people. “They are much more accessible than lawyers not just simply because they are free but since they are current at the grassroots of society where illiterate men and women would otherwise have no accessibility to the law,” he stated. “There is no doubt that they are contributing to the improvement in human rights in Senegal.”
Camara explained the parajuristes, who uncovered the plight of the ten-yr-previous, have been her eyes and ears on the ground. Terminations in such intense situations should be made legal, she additional. “Senegal have to legalise medicalised abortion so that we never see any much more situations like hers. Had we had time and had the girl’s mother and father been inclined, we could have asked a judge to contemplate guaranteeing immunity from prosecution to an [abortion] doctor,” she explained. “Even so, the family members is bad the process is tough enough for them. They had been just pleased when the rapist was arrested.”
Alex Duval Smith travelled to Senegal with the EU, which supports the drop-in centres