SWAZILAND – Global Gag Rule hits main SRHR service provider

The Family Life Association of Swaziland/Ewsatini, an IPPF member, has lost a quarter of its total funding under the US Global Gag Rule; 56 jobs have been lost (26 staff and 30 community workers). Begun in 1979, FLAS’s strategic focus was on contraception and family planning services. Since 1999, their focus was broadened to provide comprehensive SRHR and HIV services and information. More than half the population are younger than 20 years old; so their target population are youth aged 10–24 years. FLAS recognises that unsafe abortion is a major killer of women in Swaziland; they see several women each day with unwanted pregnancies, but they work within the national law.

Abortion is prohibited in Swaziland except in cases of necessity, but there is disagreement about what constitutes a case of necessity – to save the life of the pregnant woman only or in cases of serious threat to both physical and mental health, fetal anomaly and rape. The Swazi Constitution provides that abortion might be allowed on these wider medical/therapeutic grounds, but again there is no law or case law defining this. Hence, illegal abortions take place frequently. In 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Swaziland adopt a law based on the Constitutional grounds allowing abortions, collect disaggregated data on maternal mortality, including risks to women resulting from unsafe abortion, and adopt clear protocols for service providers to ensure meaningful access to legal abortion.

In March 2018, a 19-year-old girl was arrested by police in her hospital bed after being admitted for unsafe abortion complications. It was reported she had used drugs (sic) to induce an abortion.

[Note: If you put “Swaziland abortion” into Google images, you will get a long page full of adverts for medical abortion pills, mostly from South Africa.]

SOURCES: Swazi Media Commentary, by Richard Rooney, 6 August 2018 ; Swazi Media Commentary, by Richard Rooney, 27 March 2018 ; Times of Swaziland, by Mbongiseni Ndzimandze, 28 July 2017