Report/Senegal: “I don’t want this child, I want to go to school”

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Dakar, 28 November 2014 – The prohibition of abortion in Senegal leads to serious violations of women’s rights, warned FIDH and its members in a report published today (only in French). The report is based on the findings of an investigation mission conducted in Dakar, Thiès and Ziguinchor. It documents violations of women’s internationally recognized sexual and reproductive rights caused by Senegal’s repressive laws and policies on abortion.

Although rape, including of minors, is widespread and access to contraception remains limited, abortion is illegal in Senegal. A limited exception applies when pregnancy would entail serious danger for the life of the pregnant woman or girl, but procedural and practical obstacles mean that this exception is never invoked. The law requires women in such cases to obtain the approval of three doctors, costs are prohibitive and procedures are long.

The ban on abortion drives women to seek illegal unsafe abortions. It is estimated that between 8 and 13% of maternal deaths in Senegal are caused by such interventions. Under the Criminal Code, women who undertake clandestine abortions risk up to two years’ imprisonment. The ban also leads to infanticide. These two offences account for 38% of the female prison population. Medical staff practising abortion also expose themselves to the risk of imprisonment. Senegal’s legislation on abortion is one of the most repressive in the world, said Aboubacry Mbodji, Secretary General of RADDHO, FIDH’s member organization in Senegal.

The physical impacts of the ban on abortion on pregnant girls and young women are devastating. From 2013 to 2014, the Family Child Guidance Centre recorded 420 cases of sexual abuse committed on girls aged from 7 to 14. Nearly 30% of those minors became pregnant and 10 to 15% of them had to undergo a cesarean section because of their young age. Pregnancy and childbirth put the life and health of girls who are still developing at risk. Cesareans do not eliminate these risks. Unwanted pregnancies have terrible consequences, in particular psychological trauma, for all women and girls, explained Selma Hajri, doctor and member of the FIDH delegation.

The Senegalese law violates the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), ratified by Senegal in 2005. The Protocol requires States to guarantee the right to medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, danger to the mother’s mental or physical health, or to the life of the mother or the foetus. Civil society organisations are calling for the adoption of a reform, which would enable Senegal to respect its regional and international obligations. Civil society is working hard for women’s rights, advocating for legal reform and assisting victims of this harsh legislation, said Fanta Doumbia, member of the FIDH delegation.

Our organizations call on the Senegalese government to present the bill on medical abortion to parliament without further delay.

FIDH - Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme
Rencontre africaine des droits de l’homme (RADDHO)
Organisation nationale des droits de l’homme (ONDH)
Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains (LSDH)

 Read the report Senegal : “I don’t want this child, I want to go to school” (only in french).

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