AFRICA – Unsafe abortion a leading risk factor for death in many African countries, says ACHPR commissioner

Janet Sallah-Njie, a commissioner at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, says unsafe abortion is among the leading causes of death for women in many parts of the continent.

Sallah-Njie spoke on 18 July during the 20th anniversary of the Maputo Protocol organised by the French-speaking West Africa network ODAS (Organisation pour le Dialogue pour l’Avortement Sécurisé/Organization for Safe Abortion Dialogue) and other sexual and reproductive health partners at the Women Deliver conference in Rwanda.

The Maputo Protocol is a legally binding instrument on women’s and human rights in Africa and as of July 2021, 42 member states had ratified it.

The anniversary was held to reflect on Article 14 of the protocol which promotes and protects women’s health and reproductive rights. Abortion is the subject of Article 14c.

Sallah-Njie described Article 14 as “radical and revolutionary because, for the very first time, we have a legally binding instrument that speaks to issues that you don’t find in other instruments – issues relating to sexual and reproductive health rights to be precise, abortion, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, all issues that concern us as Africans. On the issue of safe abortion, we know that there is a lot of stigma around the subject and we’re happy that the protocol addresses that and recognises that these are not social issues but rights that women are entitled to… When it comes to abortion, the main concern is unsafe abortion and the fact that it is conducted in a clandestine environment because the issue of criminalising the act sends it underground. People will still do what they need to do.”

SOURCE: The Cable Nigeria, by Claire Mom, 19 July 2023 ; African Union, Maputo Protocol Scorecard & Index, 28 July 2021