On Jan. 18, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) launched a continental campaign for the decriminalization of abortion in Africa to bring attention to unsafe abortion which significantly threatens women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights. ACHPR announced the campaign during the African Union Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortion continues to be a major cause of maternal deaths and injuries in Africa. Roughly 47,000 women die each year from complications from unsafe abortion and nearly two thirds of those deaths occur in Africa. In fact, more than 6 million unsafe abortions occur in Africa, resulting in 29,000 deaths and countless serious injuries and disabilities every year for poor, mostly rural-based African women and girls under the age 25.
Hon. Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, said these deaths occur partly because of laws that criminalize abortion, presuming that the threat of arrest or imprisonment will prevent women and girls from having abortions. Yet making abortion illegal does not reduce the number of abortions nor deter women from having abortions—it just makes abortion unsafe and risky, resulting in more women suffering injury or even death from complications from unsafe abortion, she noted during the campaign launch event.
The ACHPR is committed to bringing countries into compliance with their commitments under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol); the Maputo Plan of Action; and the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). To that end, the ACHPR has called on governments to demonstrate their commitment to African women and girls by decriminalizing abortion in their respective countries.
“Ipas is proud to partner with the ACHPR on this campaign. We are ready to bring our growing body of evidence around the criminalization of abortion to the table and will continue to push for access to safe, legal abortion for women in Africa,” says Ipas Africa Alliance Senior Advisor Lucy Lugalia, who participated in the campaign launch event.