By Tarisai Machakaire
HARARE – Ashley Shamba (not real name) is due to graduate in December, she is the first to acquire a degree in her family and naturally she is expected to make a significant financial contribution soon but that dream may be shattered as she is now pregnant.
Ashley’s family expects her to assist siblings with their education before she gets married. However, she got pregnant before fulfilling her parents’ wish and that can make her an outcast and she now feels that abortion is her only option even though it is illegal in Zimbabwe.
Abortion awakens a mixture of emotions in people and generates much controversy in the public health discourse, underlined with significant cultural and moral considerations.
According to Population Services International PSI also reported that in 2014, 78 percent of university students who fell pregnant resorted to abortion, a figure higher than the 48 percent recorded for the prior year.
When the Daily News on Sunday got in touch with Shamba, she told of how she engaged a pharmacist who sold her abortion pills named mifepristone, which terminates pregnancy.
Shamba’s case relates to numerous stories that have been reported of women who in some cases carry their pregnancies to full term only to kill or abandon new-born babies.
Debate has been raging around such issues with some sectors blaming ‘it’ on restrictive abortion laws while others feel ignorance on sex education especially among teens is to blame for escalating rate of infanticide and baby dumping.
Girls Legacy operations manager, Judith Chiyangwa, attributes the lack of sex education as one of the major reasons for the surge in infanticide and baby dumping cases.
“From a girl’s perspective I will tell you that this issue lies heavily on lack of sex education.
“Most of these girls get pregnant unaware and many of them actually attempt abortion such that they are usually in shock when they discover that they have carried their pregnancies to full term,” she said.
Chiyangwa related her sentiments to the case of a Chinhoyi University of Technology student, Thelma Mupatsi, who gave birth in a campus bathroom and scalded the baby to death.
“Pregnancy has a psychological effect and there are a lot of myths about what to do after giving birth or if you want to abort.
“That is the reason why the Shona have a culture of kusungira where a pregnant girl goes to her mother to be educated about what to expect and it is very crucial,” Chiyangwa said.
Although society largely blames such occurrences on women other quarters say pregnancy is a shared responsibility and the fathers should also be held accountable.
“The responsibility is shared within society but when cases of infanticide or baby dumping are brought to book, the men are found nowhere in the picture.
“There is one school of thought that argues that the abortion laws are restrictive but the unanswered question is: Where are the partners who made these women pregnant?” said Virginia Muwanigwa, a gender activist.
An Epworth woman, Christine Mafara, 24, who was convicted for abandoning her newly-born baby by the roadside early this year, told the court that she acted in such a callous manner because her wedded husband was not the father of the child.
“I did not know where the child’s father was because my husband was not responsible for the pregnancy,” she said before Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe.
“I have three other children and honestly don’t know what came over me to dump my baby,” Mafara said. Daily News