Why Egypt’s children are being dumped on the streets

[This article was published in 2015, but little is likely to have changed… Editor]

“I would rather kill myself than tell my parents that I was pregnant,” says S, 26… “It was two years ago… I have not told anyone. Not my family, not my closest friends, nor even my boyfriend. Otherwise he would have just treated me as a slut who deserves all that. We cannot talk about it; it’s such a taboo … But if you are a bit resourceful, you can find ways.”

S went through a long list of steps in order to have an abortion. She had to make more than 30 phone calls to various pharmacies to try to obtain anti-malarial medicines known to cause miscarriages. “But pharmacists are well aware of the side effects and refuse to sell them without medical prescription.”

There were also unsuccessful attempts to search on Google for an “acceptable” clandestine clinic. S checked a website called Women on Waves… Via the black market, she ordered misoprostol…

“I decided to operate my own abortion,” she says. “I imported the medicine from India by DHL. It cost me 80 euros, plus 135 euros for postal charges, plus a bribe of 200 Egyptian pounds [23 Euros] to the postal centre.”

“I was living with my uncle. I did not even have a room of my own… I took the first salvo of pills. A few minutes later, I started having cramps … I started bleeding, enormously … My family was in the next room. I screamed in pain, pretending I had painful menstruation. But I wavered. My aunt called the emergency pharmacist. He made several tranquilising injections. The only thing I thought was: hopefully he wouldn’t realise … He understood, but he didn’t utter a word. I think he didn’t have the strength to denounce me to my family and therefore face their insults – until they too realised that I was trying to carry out an abortion in their bedroom.”

The taboo of unwanted pregnancy

…”Abortion is as common as it is forbidden… But it’s a taboo subject on all levels! From a religious perspective, you are considered a whore, and from a legal point of view, you are a criminal. Then comes the social pressure, which is surely the worst.”…

In 2000, 11% of Egyptian women admitted having had an abortion, according to… the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey. 19% admitted to have had unwanted pregnancy…

“…The government is well aware of the problems caused – homemade abortions that go wrong, a very significant infant abandonment rate, hidden pregnancies and brutal deliveries resulting in the death of the baby, and sometimes the mother. You have no idea how many newborns are found dead in dustbins.”

…Some women who do not have the resources to pursue a secret abortion or feel that they are too unsafe choose to hide their pregnancy and abandon the baby at birth… While some of these secret children are directly thrown into the street, with a survival rate close to zero, most of them are placed in hospitals, mosques or orphanages… The problem is that this trend of unwanted pregnancies, ending in abandonment, encourages human trafficking… UNICEF estimates the number of those children at more than 10,000 in Cairo and Alexandria alone.

… It should be noted, moreover, that unmarried women who end up in a hospital to give birth are still exposed and arrested today by the police.”…

EN FRANÇAIS: Ce tabou qui jette les enfants dans les rues d’Égypte, Middle East Eye, 28 September 2015. IN ENGLISH: Middle East Eye, 2 October 2015