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The importance of learning free from stigma

by Karina, a youth advocate from the Dominican Republic.

Karina took part in Youth Coalition’s Abortion Advocacy Training in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, co-hosted by Profamilia Dominican Republic, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and IPPF-Western Hemisphere. This is cross-posted from Youth Coalition’s blog. Versión en español a continuación.

Relieved. That’s how I felt during the Safe Abortion Advocacy Training of Trainers.

It was the first time I worked or participated in an educational space free of stigma.

People from Perú, Dominican Republic, United States, Bolivia, Venezuela and Argentina participated in this space and shared nurturing reflections and knowledge about their countries’ situations around abortion. Through sharing these experiences, it made us realize how important it is to not just fight to change the restrictive legislation towards abortion, but to fight for comprehensive and quality services aiming to provide safe abortion to people who need it.

During this training, every emotion and every thought mattered. We defined the most effective ways of talking about abortion and we learned to not feel guilty for defending it. We clarified our values and prejudices around abortion using a human rights based approach.

We developed many reflections through our discussions, such as: people who get abortions do not suffer because of the decision itself but because of the painful road they have to take to access abortion services. They suffer because of health providers’ lack of information about abortion. This is what makes the decision a difficult and uncomfortable one. Abortion is not a moral problem but a health issue, and one that our states are not paying enough attention to.

The people from IPPF, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Profamilia were amazing facilitators. I feel so much more safe and secure now when I say: abortion is a right and we need to fight for it. This training and the new friends I made are going to remain with me forever.


Liberada. Así me sentí durante mi estancia en la Formación para Entrenadoras/ en Actividades de Promoción por el Aborto Seguro, es la primera oportunidad que tengo de educarme sobre el tema en un espacio de trabajo y de socialización en donde no existía estigmatización.

El encuentro de los países que participaron -entre ellos Perú, Argentina, EEUU y RD- fue una de las partes más enriquecedoras. Ver cómo las demás naciones asumían el tema del aborto, y la manera en que variaban las problemáticas, ayudaba a darnos de cuenta que no bastaba luchar por un marco legal que aprobara la interrupción del embarazo para la vida e integridad de la mujer, sino que también se tenía que pelear por un servicio integral de calidad en materia de aborto seguro.

Siempre se le dio importancia a cómo nos sentíamos en el proceso educativo. Definimos técnicas abordaje sobre el tema, aprendimos a no sentir culpa por defender el aborto, aclaramos dudas basadas en las preconcepciones que tenemos del mismo y de situaciones de salud basándonos en los derechos humanos y reforzamos nuestros argumentos.

Dentro de los intercambios de experiencias personales, movilización social y trabajo de salud en el tema del aborto pudimos llegar a las siguientes conclusiones: las mujeres que deciden abortar no  sufren  por la decisión sino por lo doloroso y complicado que es acceder a un aborto; la desinformación de los proveedores del servicio de salud hace inaccesible o incómoda la decisión de interrumpir un embarazo; el aborto no es un problema moral, es un problema de salud que no está siendo resuelto de manera satisfecha por parte del estado y que los albortos que se realizan en zonas vulnerables son de alto riesgo.

IPPF, YOUTH COALITION y PROFAMILIA fueron magistrales anfitriones y facilitadores del tema, me siento mucho más segura de que la despenalización del aborto es un derecho que las mujeres que tenemos que pelear, me llevo de esta maravillosa experiencia no solo una nueva perspectiva del tema sino también amigos que siempre marcaran un antes y un después en mí.

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My body, my health rights, my choice

By Mwape Kaunda, youth volunteer at Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia

Coming from a family that are strong believers of tradition, for me abortion had always been portrayed as sinful and evil. Myths like; abortion will leave a woman barren and, people who die from abortion turn black from all the bleeding. Hearing all those myths made me detest and fear abortion but upon acquiring knowledge I made it my aim to ensure people change their attitudes towards abortion and the women who practice abortion. It became vital that accurate information should be disseminated. Being an activist and advocate hadn’t been easy because the beliefs are deeply rooted in society.

I remember once coming out publicly saying “If I get pregnant today and I am not ready to be a mother, I wouldn’t hesitate to have an abortion.” The reaction I got from the community was quite disappointing, women especially called me spoilt and said that I had no values. Hearing those hurtful words almost made me give up on advocating for safe abortion but my determination was stronger.

With time, people in my community started to loosen up on abortion, then you would hear people talk about abortion openly. Completely abolishing stigma is a gradual process – whenever I refer a woman to a health centre to access abortion services I am slowly accomplishing my target of a community where any woman can access abortion without fear of stigma.

In my quest to see zero unsafe abortions and zero stigma, young people play an important role. If we involve young people we will definitely get positive results.

 

Inroads Africa Regional Meeting: A festival of ideas

Aussi en français ci-dessous

By Kader Avonnon, Youth Champion, Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille (ABPF)

According to the World Health Organisation, 47,000 women die of complications related to unsafe abortion every year. One of the main causes of these deaths is the stigma surrounding access to information and abortion services. I personally think that abortion is a health service like any other; access to it is a fundamental human right that must be ensured for all. Because, safe abortion services save the lives of women and girls.

On 29th and 30th May 2017, I participated in a regional meeting organized by Inroads (International Network for the Reduction of Abortion Stigma and Discrimination) in Lusaka, Zambia. The purpose of the meeting was to provide participants from African countries with a forum for discussing good practices in combating the stigma associated with abortion services. As an IPPF Youth Champion, I work to reduce the stigma associated with abortion among young people in Benin and elsewhere. The meeting was a great opportunity for me to give and receive information. I was given the opportunity to present a video made by the association to which I belong (ABPF) as part of the Packard funded youth and abortion stigma project in Benin; to present Ado-Santé, an application developed by ABPF to promote young people’s access to information about their sexuality; and to co-facilitate a session on “stigmatizing against young people” in collaboration with Akosua Agyepong (National Treasurer of the IPPF Youth Action Movement in Ghana) and Catherine Osita (Fortress of Hope Africa).

Inroads Africa Regional Meeting kader group
Inroads members discuss social media strategies for tackling abortion stigma

 

Of all the sessions, I particularly enjoyed the shared experiences on the use of networks and social media in the fight against the stigma associated with abortion. Different experiences have demonstrated the effectiveness of this channel in removing barriers to access to information and facilitating referral to services.

This meeting contributed to the strengthening of my capacities, particularly in the development of non-stigmatizing messages. It enabled me to familiarize myself with other advocacy tools against stigma related to abortion at different levels. I was also pleased to learn that some religious leaders do support their followers to access abortion services. Even if this is done in discretion, it announces that a day will come when religious barriers to accessing abortion services will be completely lifted.

My participation in this meeting allowed me to strengthen my abilities and diversify my knowledge on abortion communication strategies. This new knowledge will allow me to increase my involvement alongside my young peers. I strongly recommend the replication of this activity at all levels (national, regional, and global) to make available the information, experiences and tools that have proved their worth in the fight against the stigmatization of abortion.

 

Inroads réunion régionale de l’Afrique: un festival d’idées sur la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement

Par Kader Avonnon, Jeune Champion, Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille (ABPF)

Selon l’OMS, 47 000 femmes décèdent des complications liées à l’avortement dans les pays en voie de développement. L’une des causes principales de ces décès est la stigmatisation qui entoure l’accès à l’information et aux services d’avortement. Je pense personnellement que l’avortement est un service de santé comme tout autre ; y accéder est un droit fondamental de l’homme qui doit être assuré pour tous. Car, les services d’avortement sauvent la vie des femmes et des jeunes filles et procure le bien-être familial

Les 29 et 30 Mai 2017, j’ai participé à une rencontre régionale organisée par Inroads (Réseau Internationale pour la Réduction de la Stigmatisation et la Discrimination liée à l’Avortement) à Lusaka en Zambie. Cette réunion visait à offrir aux participants venus de plusieurs pays d’Afrique un espace d’échange sur les bonnes pratiques dans le domaine de la lutte contre la stigmatisation liées aux services d’avortement. En ma qualité de Jeune Champion de l’IPPF, j’œuvre pour la réduction de la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement parmi les jeunes au Bénin et ailleurs. La réunion était pour moi un rendez-vous du donner et du recevoir. Elle m’a donné l’opportunité de présenter une vidéo réalisée par l’Association à laquelle j’appartiens (ABPF) dans le cadre du projet Packard au Bénin d’une part, de présenter Ado-Santé, une application développée par l’ABPF pour favoriser l’accès des jeunes à l’information sur leur sexualité et de co-faciliter une session sur « la stigmatisation face aux jeunes » en collaboration avec Akosua GYEPONG (Trésorière Nationale du MAJ Ghana) et Catherine Osita de (Fortress of Hope Africa) d’autre part.

De toutes les sessions, j’ai particulièrement aimé les expériences partagées sur l’utilisation des réseaux et médias sociaux dans la lutte contre la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement. Les différentes expériences ont démontré l’efficacité de ce canal pour lever les barrières affectant l’accès à l’information et faciliter la référence vers les services.

Cette rencontre a contribué au renforcement de mes capacités, particulièrement en matière d’élaboration de message non stigmatisant. Elle m’a permis de me familiariser avec d’autres outils de plaidoyer contre la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement à différents niveaux. J’ai aussi été content d’apprendre que des leaders religieux soutiennent leurs fidèles à accéder aux services d’avortement. Même si cela est jusque-là fait dans la discrétion, cela annonce qu’un jour viendra où les barrières religieuses à l’accès aux services d’avortement seront complètement levées.

Ma participation à cette rencontre m’a permis de renforcer mes capacités et diversifier mes connaissances sur les stratégies de communication sur l’avortement. Ces nouvelles connaissances me permettront d’accroitre mon engagement aux côtés de mes pairs jeunes au pays.

Je recommande vivement la duplication de cette activité à toutes les échelles (national, régional, et mondial) pour rendre disponible l’information, les expériences et les outils qui ont fait leur preuve dans la lutte contre la stigmatisation de l’avortement.

 

We should all be concerned by abortion stigma //La stigmatisation liée à  l’avortement: Tous concernés

By Oumar Tao, Youth Champion at ABBEF, Burkina Faso // Par Oumar Tao, Jeune Champion à l’ABBEF, Burkina Faso 

Abortion stigma exists in almost every country in the world. Indeed, several layers of society are affected by this stigma, contrary to the belief that only those who have had abortions are victims of stigmatization. Indeed, health workers responsible for this necessary services are also victims of stigmatization. At the African meeting of INROADS members, a health worker gave his testimony in these words:

“I am a churchman, a man of God, every Sunday I go to church. After going to church I usually invited my friends to eat and drink. One day I explained my work to a friend from church and he said to me that it is not good what I do, that the Lord does not endorse these practices. After church I invited my friends over and he refused to come and he told others not to come because I’m paying for the guests with money from abortion. That day I felt stigmatized and I realized how stigmatized the victims of abortion were. “

It should be noted that this is a testimony of a health worker.

Thereafter, a woman who educated the community gave her testimony:

“Every two to three days we raise awareness in the villages about abortion and the stigma associated with abortion. One day we were in a village for sensitization and when we finished, we took the road to the house. On the road, a group of young people joined us and asked us if we are the “abortionists” with a violent tone, we answered: we are not abortionists but we are raising awareness for better access to information for all on abortion. They told us to leave and never return to the village for these kinds of sensitizations. That day I felt stigmatized, I was even afraid for my life.”

These testimonials show us how all those involved in abortion are concerned by the stigmatization in their community or in their place of work. Several organizations like ABBEF work day and night to eradicate this stigma in the world. I remain confident that through our programmes to target abortion stigma, with the support of everyone we will make it.

La stigmatisation sur l’avortement existe dans presque tous les pays du monde. En effet, plusieurs couches de la société sont touchées par cette stigmatisation contrairement aux pensées selon laquelle seules les personnes ayants avorté sont victimes de stigmatisation. En effet, les agents de santé responsable des interruptions nécessaires de grossesses sont aussi victimes de stigmatisation. Lors de la rencontre africaine des membres d’INROADS un agent de santé a rendu son témoignage en ces termes : 

« Je suis un homme d’église, un homme de Dieu, chaque dimanche je me rends à l’église. Apres l’église j’ai pour habitude d’invité mes amis à manger et à boire. Un jour j’ai expliqué a un ami de l’église mon travail et il m’a juste dit que ce n’est pas bien ce que je fais, que le seigneur ne cautionne pas ces pratiques. Apres l’église j’ai invité mes amis et il a refusé de venir et il dit aux autres de ne pas venir car je suis en train de les invités avec l’argent de l’avortement. Ce jour je me suis senti stigmatiser et j’ai compris à quel point les personnes victimes d’avortement souffraient de la stigmatisation. »  

Il faut noter que ceci est un témoignage d’un agent de santé.  

Par la suite une femme qui sensibilise la communauté a rendu son témoignage : 

 « Chaque deux à trois jours nous sensibilisons dans les villages sur l’avortement et la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement. Un jour nous étions dans un village pour des sensibilisations et quand nous avons finis, nous avons pris la route pour la maison. En effet, sur la route, un groupe de jeunes nous rejoignit et nous demandas si nous sommes ‘’les avorteurs’’ avec un ton violent, nous répondîmes à travers ces mots : nous ne sommes pas des avorteurs mais nous sensibilisons pour un meilleur accès à l’information pour tous sur l’avortement. Ils nous ont dit de partir et de ne plus jamais revenir dans le village pour ces genres de sensibilisations. Ce jour je me suis sentis stigmatiser juste par-ce-que je faisais des sensibilisations, j’ai eu même peur pour ma vie ».  

Ces témoignages nous montrent à quel point tous les acteurs de l’avortement sont concernés par la stigmatisation que ce soit dans leur communauté ou dans leur lieu de travail. Plusieurs organisations à l’instar de l’ABBEF travaillent jours et nuit afin d’éradiqué cette stigmatisation dans le monde. Je reste confiant que travers les programmes pour cibler les stigmatisation liées l’avortement , avec l’implication de tous on y arrivera.

Abortion advocacy training in Zambia – Billy

In March and June, 30 young volunteers at the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia were trained on abortion advocacy. Here, one young person reflects on what he learned:

“Abortion is a matter that really needs attention in our day to day matters. To start with I would say abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. In the past two day workshop I realized and learnt things that I never knew were in existence like the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1972. The law says that abortion is permitted to save the life of the pregnant woman, to preserve her physical or mental health, in the case of fetal impairment and for economic or social reasons.

I would also like to state that regardless of people being modernized they still practice unsafe abortions. One unsafe practice that left me in a state that was unpleasant is where a person crushes bottles and takes them without realizing she is endangering her life. Having heard this I came to the conclusion that most people regardless of their class or profession need to be sensitized about abortion to reduce the number of unsafe abortions and encourage legal safe abortions that will be done in hospitals by trained doctors.”

Billy Banda, young peer educator in Lusaka

Lusaka during Group Exercise on SRHR Policies and the Law (2)
Training participants in Lusaka discuss abortion law

Abortion advocacy training in Zambia – Mwape

In March and June, 30 young volunteers at the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia were trained on abortion advocacy. Here, one young person reflects on what she learned:

Abortion is one of the most sensitive topics society shuns to discuss, which from the word go is looked upon as evil. Having attended a workshop on safe abortion advocacy I have a different perspective of abortion.

I feel abortion should be a human right that every woman should be entitled to. It is a fact that unsafe abortions are happening in our society and many deaths result from unsafe abortions. As such, it is vital that we the youths take up the leading role and bring unsafe abortions to an end.

The Zambian law may be restrictive in some areas but the provision of safe services depends on the attitude and willingness of the health care providers and willingness of clients to come through. Reducing the need for abortion, be it unsafe or safe abortion, can be achieved by focusing on; changing the circumstances of women that make them vulnerable to unwanted/unplanned pregnancies; increasing women and men’s knowledge, access to and use of contraception; sexuality education for all, and addressing the poor economic prospects of women.

Mwape Kaunda, young peer educator in Kitwe

 

Unsafe abortion in Benin/ L’avortement à risque au Bénin

by Hélène Hlungbo, IPPF Youth Champion and President of Youth Action Movement in Benin//Par Hélène Hlungbo, ‘Youth Champion’ de l’IPPF et présidente du mouvement d’action jeunesse au Bénin

International conventions on human rights, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child[1], support the rights of young people to information, education and good health. In Benin, one out of every five deaths occurs in adolescents according to the Benin Demographic and Health Survey (EDSB IV, 2011-2012). The 2003 Act on Reproductive Health is fairly restrictive and authorizes abortion only in three situations: when the woman’s life/health is threatened, when there is malformation of the fetus and in cases of rape or incest.[2] This restrictive law means that many adolescent girls terminate unwanted pregnancies in secret, in places which are unhygienic and often not even recognized by the Beninese state as proper clinics. In most cases, there are complications or even deaths of adolescent girls as a result of these unsafe abortions.

Moreover, a survey carried out in Benin by the students of the University of Abomey Calavi (UAC) in 2015 reveals that the majority of patients referred to both the University Clinic of Obstetric Gynaecology and the Hospital and University Center of the Mother And Children are aged between 15 and 24, according to the various statistics collected in these hospitals. Also, registered abortions, especially those within this age group, exceed 50%.

Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or disability. From this definition it can be noted that young people have the right to make informed choices and make decisions about sexuality. Although the law exists, it is very restrictive, its implementation limited and far from being a reality for want of political will. Many ‘unofficial clinics’ are providing care to the population at a very high cost. Medical ethics are trampled underfoot in the pursuit of profits, which has the direct consequence of unsafe abortions that are detrimental to the health of adolescents and young people.

[1] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

[2] https://www.reproductiverights.org/world-abortion-laws/benins-abortion-provisions

Les Conventions internationales sur les droits humains telles que la Convention sur les droits de l’enfant soutiennent les droits des jeunes à l’information, à l’éducation et à une bonne santé.[1] Au Bénin 1 décès sur 5 est le fait d’une adolescente selon l’Enquête Démographique et de Santé du Bénin (EDSB IV, 2011-2012).[2] La loi de mars 2003 relative à la Santé de la Reproduction est assez restrictive et n’autorise l’avortement que dans trois (03) situations: lorsque la santé de la femme est menacée, lorsqu’il y a malformation du fœtus et en cas de viol ou d’inceste.[3] Cette restriction de la loi fait que de nombreuses adolescentes terminent des grossesses non désirées de façon clandestine dans des cabinets de soins peu adaptés et parfois même non reconnus par l’état béninois et dans des conditions peu recommandables. Dans la plupart des cas, on note des complications ou des décès dans le rang des adolescentes suite aux avortements à risques (non sécurisés).

Par ailleurs, une enquête réalisée au Bénin par les étudiants de l’Université d’Abomey Calavi (UAC) en 2015 révèle que la majorité des patientes référées aussi bien à la Clinique Universitaire de Gynécologie Obstétrique qu’au Centre Hospitalier et Universitaire de la Mère et de l’Enfant (CHU/MEL) ont un âge compris entre 15 et 24 ans, selon les diverses statistiques recueillies dans ces centres hospitaliers. Aussi, des avortements enregistrés, notamment ceux se situant entre cette tranche d’âge, excèdent les 50%.

En outre, selon l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS), la santé est un état de bien-être physique, mental et social complet, et pas seulement l’absence de maladie ou d’incapacité. De cette définition, on peut ainsi retenir que les jeunes ont le droit d’opérer des choix éclairés et de prendre des décisions en matière de sexualité. Bien que la loi existe, elle est très restrictive, sa mise en application limitée et loin d’être une réalité faute de volonté politique. De nombreuses cliniques ne répondant pas aux normes sont opérationnelles et dispensent des soins aux populations à un coût très élevé. La déontologie médicale est foulée au pied au détriment de profits induits ce qui a pour conséquence directe ces avortements à risques préjudiciables à la santé des adolescentes et des jeunes.

[1] http://www.ohchr.org/FR/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

[2] http://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/SR206/SR206.pdf

[3] https://www.reproductiverights.org/world-abortion-laws/benins-abortion-provisions

Safe abortion must be one of my rights // L’avortement securise doit faire parti de mes droits

Interview by Sawdate Sawadogo, Youth Champion and Chairperson of the ABBEF Youth Action Movement in Burkina Faso

(En français ci-dessous)

Abortion stigma is a critical issue these days and a sensitive issue for so many girls. Abortion is often not something that is expected…however, the stigma is so strong that some girls are often forced to turn away from their dreams. Malia, a college student in Burkina Faso, faced this stigma:

“Even if social pressure weighs on you, take responsibility for a better tomorrow”

“My name is Malia. I am 16 years old. My dream is to be a lawyer. A few months ago, I had an unwanted pregnancy. As I did not know how the clinic nurse was going to react, so I went for a secret abortion. The next day I did not feel well, but I forced myself to go to school for fear that my parents would notice I was unwell. Arriving in class, I felt very sick, I was weak and I was losing blood. The headmaster took me home but my parents were away. So he took me to the hospital. Along the way, he asked me why I was losing so much blood. I told him I had my period. When we arrived at the hospital, I fell on the terrace. After the diagnosis, the doctor approached the headmaster to inform him that I had undergone a clandestine abortion. The abortion was very badly done by someone who wasn’t a proper doctor and my uterus was affected. When my mum and aunt came, they wanted to learn more about what was wrong with me. The doctor explained the situation to them.

On my return home my aunt explained the facts to my father in the presence of another girl who attends the same school as me. This is how the news spread to school. Some classmates were already coming to ask me at home whether it was true that I had had an abortion. I started to be afraid. Back at school, the students began to bully me by saying that I had aborted and that the headmaster had taken me to the hospital. I felt embarrassed, sidelined. The headmaster brought me back to the office to reassure me. He even threatened the students in collaboration with the teachers, which really comforted me. I told myself that I should not give up, that I could overcome this pain and fight for a better tomorrow. I had exams to do. So I concentrated as much as I could and received a good mark. At the end of this, I was awarded a scholarship for study abroad.

What if I had continued the pregnancy? I do not think I could have passed my exam and continued my studies.

Young people from Burkina Faso, this isn’t something which only happens to ‘other people’. Together, let’s say no to stigma and let girls like me realize their dreams! ”

Propos recueillis  par Sawdate SAWADOGO – Jeune championne/Présidente du Mouvement  d’Action des Jeunes de l’ABBEF

La stigmatisation de l’avortement est un problème crucial de nos jours et une question sensible pour tant de filles. L’avortement n’est souvent pas quelque chose que l’on prévoit… Il survient après analyse de certains paramètres jugés importants liés à la grossesse. Cependant, la stigmatisation est si forte que certaines filles sont souvent obligées de se détourner de leurs rêves. Mais Malia, élève d’un collège au Burkina Faso a relevé le défi. 

« Même si la pression sociale pèse sur vous, prenez vos responsabilités pour un lendemain meilleur »

« Je m’appelle Malia. Je suis en classe de 3ème  et j’ai 16 ans. Mon  rêve est d’être avocate. Il y a quelques mois, j’ai eu une grossesse non désirée ; comme je ne savais pas comment l’infirmière de la clinique allait réagir, je suis allée faire un avortement clandestin. Le lendemain, je ne me sentais pas bien, mais je me suis forcée pour aller à l’école de peur que mes parents ne remarquent mon mal. Arrivée en classe, je me sentais très malade, j’étais faible et je perdais du sang. Le proviseur m’a ramenée à la maison mais mes parents étaient absents. Il m’a donc conduite à l’hôpital. En cours de route, il m’a demandé pourquoi je perdais autant de sang. Je lui ai répondu que j’avais mes règles. Arrivée à l’hôpital, je suis tombée sur la terrasse. Après le diagnostic, le médecin a approché le proviseur pour lui annoncer que j’avais subi un avortement clandestin. L’avortement a été très mal fait et mon utérus était un peu touché. Quand ma maman et ma tante sont arrivées, elles voulaient apprendre davantage sur mon mal. Le médecin leur a expliqué la situation. Après les soins au retour à la maison ma tante a expliqué les faits à mon papa en présence d’une autre fille qui fréquente le même établissement. C’est ainsi  que la nouvelle s’est répandue à l’école. Certains camarades de classe venaient déjà me demander à la maison si c’était vrai que j’avais avorté. J’ai commencé à avoir peur. De retour à l’école, les élèves ont commencé à me héler en disant que j’avais avorté et que le proviseur m’avait amené à l’hôpital. Je me sentais gênée, mise à l’écart. Le proviseur m’a rappelée au bureau pour m’encourager. Il a même menacé les élèves en collaboration avec les professeurs, ce qui m’a vraiment réconfortée. Je me suis dit que je ne devrais pas baisser les bras, que je pourrais surmonter cette douleur et me battre pour un lendemain meilleur. Je devais composer le Brevet d’Etudes du Premier Cycle (BEPC). Je me suis donc concentrée dans les bosses et j’en suis sortie avec la mention ‘très bien’. A l’issue de cela, j’ai bénéficié d’une bourse d’études pour l’extérieur. 

Et si j’avais continué la grossesse ? Je ne pense pas que j’aurais pu réussir mon examen et poursuivre mes études.

Jeunes du Burkina Faso, cela n’arrive pas qu’aux autres. Ensemble, disons non à  la stigmatisation et permettons aux filles comme  moi de réaliser normalement leurs rêves ! »

 

Abortion – a human right

by Arshpreet Kaur, young volunteer at the Family Planning Association of India

Each year, around the world, 19-20 million women undergo unsafe abortions [Source: WHO]. Although the law in India permits safe abortion under certain conditions, here one woman dies every two hours of an unsafe abortion [Source: TIME]. The root cause for this alarming statistic is stigma around abortion and the lack of awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights.

I have grown up considering ‘miscarriage’ and ‘abortion’ as synonyms. The reason for this misconception is the preference of word ‘miscarriage’ by society due to stigma associated with abortion. In fact, miscarriage is spontaneous loss of pregnancy while abortion means terminating the pregnancy out of choice.

Why unsafe abortion?

Most women in India view abortion as ‘illegal’ so they opt for unsafe abortion. Due to stigma around abortion, it is difficult for women to access it safely; and the fear of discrimination causes them to try unsafe methods at home to induce abortion which can be fatal. The other unsafe abortions are a result of sex-selective abortion. In some parts of India, people still prefer a male child over a female child as they consider sons as breadwinners in their old age. Another reason is young girls are often denied abortion services; hence they are left with no other choice than unsafe abortion.

The MTP Act

Abortion is legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 which allows for pregnancies less than 12 weeks to be terminated on the opinion of a single doctor. For pregnancies between 12-20 weeks, the opinion of two doctors is required for termination. Women are permitted to terminate their pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner under certain conditions – when there is a risk to the physical or mental health of woman (i.e. in the case of rape, contraceptive failure), and when there is a risk that the child would have “physical or mental abnormalities”.

If a girl is under 18 years of age, written consent from her guardian is required.

Proposed amendments to the MTP Act

In October 2014, the Ministry of Health and Welfare proposed some amendments to the MTP Act: to increase the time frame for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks; to allow for an abortion to be carried out on the request of the pregnant woman instead of due to the opinion of the doctor; and to permit abortion beyond 24-weeks if the foetus has substantial abnormalities.

The draft amendments offer a positive step in the right direction. There is a need to immediately incorporate these amendments into an act which will save women from approaching the court, and from distress and a delay in abortion.

A human right

According to international human rights law, a person is granted with human rights only at birth which means a foetus is not entitled to human rights. It is the basic right of a woman to decide about her body, sexuality, fertility, and hence future. We have to acknowledge that stigma surrounding abortion would never wipe out demand for abortion. So, there is a need to strike a fine balance between abortion laws and the right to bodily integrity allowing women to own and decide about their bodies.

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