By Tendai Kamhungira
Harare lawyer Tendai Biti has called on the government to legalise abortion, arguing hundreds of girls were dying attempting to illegally terminate pregnancies.
Biti said this yesterday while addressing people at a Harare hotel, where the Constitutional Court (Con-Court) was conferred with an award for outlawing child marriages after striking off Section 22 (1) of the Marriages Act.
Biti mounted that legal challenge.
The gold certificate award was handed to the Con-Court by the Women’s Comfort Corner Foundation (WCCF) leader Rita Mbatha, in conjunction with the International Alliance of Women (IAW).
Biti, who worked with Veritas in the legal challenge, said that women are still marginalised and are not being treated equally as their male counterparts.
“There are thousands and thousands of young girls in this country who are going through illegal abortions as I talk to you right now. So there are hundreds of girls that are dying because of illegal abortions. The law, the Termination of Pregnancy Act in Zimbabwe is terrible.
“Those with money, you just go to South Africa and you go to those clinics, it’s very cheap anyway, it’s State subsidised. For the rich and the middle class, abortion is one hour away but not for the majority of our young girls in this country and its endemic.
“When I did the child marriages case, I did major research on children and women in this country. One of the shocking things is that I discovered that in a province like Gokwe, by the time a girl is 19, she should have at least two children. The statistics are shocking on child births.
“If we have to be equal like we do in the (Loveness) Mudzuru case (the child marriages case), one of the things that we have to do is to democratise the right of access to abortion,” Biti said, alluding to the fact that he will bring the case before the courts soon to challenge the Termination of Pregnancy Act.
Biti’s call for the legalisation of abortion come after a similar call by the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR).
The organisation said that women with unwanted pregnancies must be able to undergo safe abortions in a move that could save countless lives in a country which has been grappling with a high maternal death rate.
The Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977 (Chapter 15:10) that bans abortion in the southern African nation must be immediately repealed, the doctors said.
“We therefore, call upon the government of Zimbabwe to repeal the Termination of Pregnancy Act and remove other barriers to accessing safe reproductive health services for women and allow women to take responsibility of their reproductive health,” the ZADHR said in a statement.
The organisation further said the repeal of this law is a huge opportunity to save countless lives from preventable deaths. Around one in 190 women in Zimbabwe die during or shortly after childbirth, the World Health Organisation noted.
One-third of these deaths are the result of complications from unsafe abortions, often carried out by untrained people in unhygienic and dangerous surroundings, according to observers.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights prescribes that access to safe and affordable abortion facilities is part of the sexual and reproductive health rights of women.
The new Constitution of Zimbabwe in Section 76 guarantees access to sexual and reproductive health services and right to life (Section 48). Daily News