Cameroon: activist’s reflections
“ In my opinion, I strongly believe that when Cameroonian women will freely start exercising their right to control their fertility, to enjoy good health, and security of person – then shall we give an opening to promote legislation that gives access to safe abortion.”
I understand abortion to be a healthy method of family planning; for preventing unwanted pregnancies. In my area of work, women who practice safe abortion do it unnoticed, and are very cautious about the penalties they may face if caught. Yet when abortion is carried out illegally, as is often the case (using crude methods, fake doctors and practitioners), the victim may develop a serious health hazard (excessive bleeding or death etc). Sometimes too the women keep an unwanted pregnancy until after delivery, then they may kill or abandon the live baby somewhere, to the mercy of God. At this time, when caught, they are charged for an offence, and are generally penalized. My service then comes in to offer psycho-social assistance and educate the victim and partner on safe family planning methods, to avoid friction and future repeated abortions.
Next the men often are very brutal towards the women and girls. A woman may have a miscarriage because of frequent psychological and physical torture. This time the aggressor is penalized. Other times, when he learns that she is pregnant, particularly in cases of free union, he warns, threatens and insists that an abortion be carried out – all for some selfish thought gains. At this time, it is left to the woman as an individual, to decide on whether to keep the pregnancy or not. When he does not co-operate any longer, she runs to my Service for assistance.
My Service works very closely with the Forces of Law and Order, Health Units, Social Affairs Department and the Judiciary, and promote women’s access to new technologies, for effective responses. When the act had not yet been done, we counsel the couple, encourage them to keep it and do pre-natal consultations.
More so, we vulgarize our Law texts and instruments to members in diverse communities, so as to keep them informed and encourage them use healthy family planning methods of their choice; and making sure it doesn’t contradict the Law.
In my opinion, I strongly believe that when Cameroonian women will freely start exercising their right to control their fertility, to enjoy good health, and security of person – then shall we give an opening to promote legislation that gives access to safe abortion.
By Marah Mbine Ngole Epie, Divisional Delegate in Menoua Division in the West Region, Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family
According to the Cameroon Penal Code, 2001 edition, Section 337 on ‘abortion’: “Subsection 1: Any woman procuring or consenting to her own abortion shall be punished with imprisonment and/or with fine. Subsection 2: Whoever procures the abortion of a woman, notwithstanding her consent, shall be punished with imprisonment and with fine.”
DEMAND ACCESS TO SAFE AND LEGAL ABORTION NOW!
(Image: Cristy C. Road, Incite! poster, http://inciteblog.wordpress.com.)