Senegal: UN committee urges decriminalization of abortion

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Paris, 4 August 2015 - UN committee experts expressed concern about the criminalization of abortion and the restrictive conditions under which it is available in Senegal, and urged the country to amend its legislation in order to decriminalize abortion and ensure that it is legally available in cases of threats to the life of health of the pregnant woman, rape, incest and serious impairment of the foetus. These recommendations follow the review of the country’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva on 7 July, and echo the concerns expressed by our organizations.

Senegal’s repressive legislation on abortion violates women’s internationally recognized sexual and reproductive rights. It is time the country brings it in conformity with its regional and international obligations said Khadija Cherif, FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

During the dialogue with the government’s delegation, committee experts asked for data on abortions performed in the country. The Senegalese delegation explained that in 2012, 51 500 women underwent an illegal abortion, and that on 10 February 2015,
19 % of the women inprisoned were detained on charges of infanticide and 3 % on charges of clandestine abortion.

In its concluding observations released on 27 July, the CEDAW committee expressed concerns about the lack of comprehensive education programmes on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and limited access to contraception. The committee also expressed grave concerns at the increase in the number of rape cases and the fact that legislation qualifies rape as an offense, not a crime.

These issues echoed the concerns expressed by our organizations in their joint submission to the Committee ahead of Senegal’s review (Senegal : “I don’t want this child, I want to go to school”). The joint submission documented the impact of Senegal’s restrictive legislation on abortion on women’s rights. Women cannot terminate their pregnancies, even when resulting from rape, leading some to seek clandestine abortion endangering their lives and health. Pregnant girls are at increased risk of maternal mortality, and are forced to abandon education early. The submission also detailed difficulties women face accessing contraception, especially in poor and rural areas.

and its member and partner organisations in Senegal:
Rencontre africaine des droits de l’homme (RADDHO)
Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains (LSDH)
Association des juristes sénégalaises (AJS)

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