Friday, April 4, 2014

Be glad you are not a gal (in Senegal)

It is true enough that being a girl in India is a fate-bed strewn with thorns. Still while illegal torture by random monsters is hard, nothing is as ghastly as the state taking on the role of Daddy monster (and dont you know that the dictums are for the good of women...).

A 10-year-old girl who is pregnant with twins after she was raped by a neighbour has been forced to continue with her pregnancy after human rights campaigners lost their fight to secure a legal route to abortion.

The plight of the girl, who is five months pregnant and lives in Ziguinchor in the south, highlights the heavy cost women and children are paying for a Napoleonic law on abortion that is still in force in the former French colony.

"She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy," said Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese women lawyers' association. "The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care.

"Senegal's abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years."

"For a termination to be legal in Senegal, three doctors have to certify that the woman will die unless she aborts immediately. Poor people in Senegal are lucky if they see one doctor in their lifetime, let alone three," Camara said.

"A single medical certificate costs 10,000 CFA francs ($20), which is prohibitive. We had a previous case of a raped nine-year-old who had to go through with her pregnancy. We paid for her caesarean but she died a few months after the baby was born, presumably because the physical trauma of childbirth was too great."
The women lawyers' association is lobbying MPs to align Senegal's abortion legislation with the African charter on women's rights, which the country ratified 10 years ago. Its provisions – legal medical abortion in cases of rape and incest, or where a woman's physical or mental health is threatened – have never been added to the statute book.

"Most of the calls are from rural people and concern property rights and access to land," said Aminata Samb, 25, a law graduate who works with the association. "This morning a woman rang to say her husband had married another woman and was no longer taking care of her and her children. I inform the callers of their legal rights and tell them where to turn, should they want to exercise them. But many women just want to tell their story again and again. It makes them feel better."


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