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By: Justicia Shipena

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs on Monday heard arguments on abortion from pro-choice and pro-life advocates.

The public hearings are being conducted in Windhoek and will be taken to other regions.

On Monday, the committee engaged petitioners who favour legalising abortion and those battling the verdict.

Last year, both parties launched online petitions calling for and against the abolition of the law on abortion.

Speaking during the hearing, Nyasha Chingore, programmes lead of AIDS and Human Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, said the rights of all Namibians should be protected.

Chingore added that the majority of people affected by unsafe abortions are women.

“Women are a significant constituency in this country, and therefore if the non-protection to a safe abortion affects their rights, then it deserves for us to hearing these voices and making a decision to protect their rights,” she said.

Chingore further said a comprehensive package for a safe abortion should be thought of.

Advocate Bience Gawanas said abortion affects everyone.

“When we are talking of abortion, we are not talking about young girls that are sleeping around. When we are talking about abortion, it also has to do with married women who say; I can only afford to take care of two children,” she said.

According to Gawanas, when people say abortion is murder, they stigmatise and dehumanise women who want to make that choice.

“Why should my choice not allow other people not to make their choices? Stigmatisation and dehumanisation are what some of us suffered from for a long time,” she said.

Gawanas added its time to create a Namibia for all and where people make their choices.

“We make decisions every day. We make choices every day. We can look at the numbers, but not everybody will admit to having an abortion or I want an abortion because of the stigmatisation that has taken place in our country.”

According to the Coalition of Churches and Organisations on ethical and social justice, Shirley Magazi said they are aware of churches shaming women.

“Hence we educate our pastors and leaders. We need to help our people and give them the tools to make informed decisions,” she said.

Magazi argued that even alcohol has limitations, and abortion should as well.

“People are asking for abortion on demand to go as little as the age of 12. What are we saying? There are perimeters for everything. The Namibian constitution has given us perimeters that allow for legal abortion,” she said.

Magazi questioned why churches couldn’t be opened for unwanted babies and counselling.

The pro-choice petition held 62 000 signatures last year. At the same time, pro-life activists opposing the outcry of the pro-choice activist.

Also, last year, the pro-life online petition attracted over 15 000 signatures.

The debate has also seen churches submitting their petition to parliament last year.

The three petitions were referred to the Parliamentary Standing committee of Gender and Family Affairs.

According to the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), two medical practitioners must provide a certificate verifying the grounds for abortion.

LAC states that where the basis for the abortion is unlawful intercourse, a certificate from a magistrate is also necessary.

Abortion in any other circumstances is a criminal offence for both the woman who seeks it and the person who performs it. The punishment is a fine of up to N$5 000 or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.

The petitions were launched last year after the deputy minister of health, Esther Muinjangue, tabled a motion in parliament on the possibility of legalising abortion in Namibia.

Justicia Shipena

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