In Senegal, abortion is illegal in all cases except to save the woman’s life; approval for inducing “therapeutic abortions” must come from three doctors, one of whom is independently assigned by the courts. Giving advice on where or how to access abortion is a criminal offence. There were an estimated 51,500 abortions in Senegal in 2012, and virtually all of them were clandestine and unsafe, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Seventy-three per cent of poor, rural women who underwent abortions had complications, compared to a third of non-poor, urban women.
According to the Senegalese Association of Women Lawyers (AJS), 16% of women in prison in Senegal are there for infanticide – including some who got pregnant following rape. One example is Ina, who was working as a domestic at the age of 16 and was raped by a security guard in the neighbourhood where she worked. She delivered alone in her mother’s home and left the dead baby in an unfinished building nearby. The police knocked on her door a few days later. She spent five years in jail.
The AJS recorded 153 cases of women in prison for this reason, with the support of the Regional Office for West Africa of the UN Human Rights Office during joint visits to the five prisons in Senegal that hold the majority of female detainees. According to the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH), another 22% are in prison for illegal abortion. From 2013 to 2014, the Family Child Guidance Centre recorded 420 cases of sexual abuse of girls aged 7 to 14 years. Nearly 30% of them became pregnant and, abortion not being permitted, 10-15% of them had to undergo a caesarean section because of their young age.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall said in 2015 that he may eventually support legalization of abortion in cases of rape or incest.
In September 2017, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Dakar jailed a teenage boy and his girlfriend, both secondary school pupils, for the crimes of abortion and complicity in abortion. Without informing their parents, for fear of reprisal, the two ended their four-month pregnancy in August using a medication called “Sittotem” purchased from a clandestine pharmacy. The girl began to bleed heavily and was taken to hospital. In court, their lawyers asked for clemency so that they could continue in school. They were convicted, however, and given a month in prison each.