MADAGASCAR – Women testify on the risks they experienced with clandestine abortion

This is a documentary on the practices of abortion in Madagascar. It is the result of a survey carried out in the field by Nifin’Akanga, a young women’s group named after an abortifacient plant used in Madagascar. The group have been fighting for three years for the decriminalisation of abortion. Through 15 stories of women who have had recourse to clandestine abortions, in three different regions, This documentary, presented on 5 February 2021 at the French Institute of Madagascar, wants to make change happen.

Describing what is usually left unsaid surrounding unsafe abortions, the documentary highlights the cruel reality faced by women who had no option but recourse to unsafe abortion. Mbolatiana Raveloarimisa, one of the founders of Nifin’Akanga, said:

“The word that always comes up in the women’s stories in the film is ‘fear’: fear of society, fear of dying, fear of the law, and fear of being frowned upon. Ultimately, it is this fear that is undermining people and causing collective hypocrisy to grow day by day. But this fear also opens the door to going underground. And to expose all the terrible practices. Practices that can kill women, practices that cost women’s lives in some cases. So apart from those who provide clandestine abortion in a professional manner, there are plenty of others who butcher women, who are killing women and without qualms because they know the women are afraid, and they take advantage of that.

Nifin’Akanga argues that the Malagasy law, which punishes abortion, is in contradiction with the customs of the society.

“During our field surveys, we noticed that whatever the reasons, whatever the constraints, if a woman decides to have an abortion, there is nothing that is capable of dissuading her. When a woman is pregnant and decides to have an abortion in Madagascar, nowadays, in 30 minutes, she can find a solution, but obviously this solution may not be the right one. There is always someone who knows someone who has had an abortion before,” explains Dr Fanzy Mefire, head of research in Nifin’Akanga.

To reach a wide audience, the women’s testimonies, about having an abortion at a risk to their lives – for lack of a law to protect them – will also be broadcast in the form of radio theatre on the airwaves of ten stations on the Big Island.

Even if Malagasy law prohibits it, 75,000 abortions take place each year in Madagascar and they are the second highest cause of maternal death, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Health.

SOURCE:, by Laetitia Bezain, 6 February 2021 ; VISUAL: Film promotion