By: Justicia Shipena
The government has not addressed any of the Maputo Protocol’s recommendations on abortion.
This was said by Ombudsman Basilius Dyakugha on Wednesday during the third day of the public hearing on legalising abortion held by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs.
The Maputo Protocol States Parties calls upon to take all appropriate measures to “protect the reproductive rights of women by authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus.
In addition, the Maputo Protocol is the very first treaty to recognise abortion, under certain conditions, as women’s human rights, which they should enjoy without restriction or fear of being prosecuted.
The Maputo Protocol is an international human rights instrument established by the African Union.
“What have they done so far since 2016? Have they addressed these issues, or are they busy addressing this issue? We also read newspapers, but we haven’t picked it up that they are busying addressing this recommendation,” said Dyakugha.
Dyakugha added the Government promised the
international treaty bodies that they will do something about it, however, since 2016, nothing has been done.
“We have not heard anything from the Government indicating that they are taking this seriously and they are considering
it,” he said.
According to Dyakugha, Namibia has a complicated administrative procedure in providing health services regarding how one can terminate a pregnancy.
“The Government ignores the psychological aspect and trauma of women who undergo back door abortion.”
Dyakugha further said that the ministry of health is fully aware of these recommendations.
Yesterday, the justice ministry said Namibia does not have reservations on the right to abortion.
Additionally, Namibia does not have reservations on seven out of nine key international human rights instruments.
Coordinator of the Legal Assistance Centre’s (LAC) Gender Research and Advocacy Project, Dianne Hubbard, says the LAC support a law reform that would expand freedom of choice with regards to abortion.
“We recommend that the law on abortion
should be reformed to allow more scope for physical and moral autonym,” she said.
Hubbard said there is a link between the restrictive law on baby dumping and abortion.
“The 2010 report on the motion of baby dumping in Namibia by the National Assembly’s Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources, Social and Community Development said the law on abortion should be re-examined to see if the ground on legal abortion could not be expanded,” said Hubbard.
She added that a liberalised law should be combined with comprehensive efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancy.
“We cannot consider abortion in isolation, and we want to make sure that no woman feels pressured into abortion for the wrong reasons.”
Hubbard added that no one should have an abortion due to economic reasons.
“I believe that Namibia needs a basic income grant. A universal grant is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure that the most vulnerable persons are not left out.”
She emphasised that a universal grant could reduce instances where women feel driven to abortion by economic constraints.
Hubbard stated that the LAC discovered that many women do not know about alternative options such as adoption.
“There should be non-judgmental counselling for women have an unwanted pregnancy so that they have clear information about all of the options.”
According to the Namibian police, it has investigated a total of 71 illegal abortions between 2018 to 2021, for the months January to August.
In addition, the police have also investigated 124 cases of concealment of birth over the same four-year period.
Last year, the police worked on 50 concealments of birth cases.
Speaking at the same event, Major general Anne-Marie Nainda said investigating cases of abortion are complex and difficult.
“From a policing perspective, there are challenges that we experience, especially when it comes to investigations to collect relevant evidence that will lead to prosecutions,” said Nainda.
Nainda stated that it is also difficult for them to link the crime scene to the suspect. She further added that the records the police have on illegal abortions, maybe incomplete as there may be a number of unreported abortions.
“To have successful is becomes difficult because we rely on circumstantial evidence,” she said.
Nainda said cases of abortion are underreported and are hard to detect.