In Madagascar, in 2017, it is still the Article 317 of the French Penal Code of 1810 that governs abortion. Currently, faced with the alarming figures on the death related to clandestine abortions on the Big Island, the CNFM asks: should decriminalize induced abortion?
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Clandestine abortion: more than half of Malagasy women
Most women living in Malagasy society will never say it aloud. Yes. The woman who lives near me or at home has a 50% chance of having already aborted. Clandestine abortion in Madagascar is commonplace.
“53.5% of young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years in urban areas responded that they had done at least one abortion in 2007,” according to studies by the National Institute of Public and Community Health (INSPC) in 2013 entitled “Voluntary termination of clandestine pregnancies”.
This is not a particular case because about 50% of women in their forties reported using abortion at least once before the age of 25. Moreover, many teenage girls abort in the Big Island, 17% of them before the age of 17 voluntarily or following social, religious and psychological constraints. Indeed, having a child before marriage is very badly considered by Malagasy society.
The community will automatically classify any pregnant woman before the marriage of “maditra” (1) and therefore, not respectable. This leads to the possibility of being left by the partner, being fired from the church or denied by the family, and other unsustainable social consequences. This is why many women choose abortion as a solution. A clandestine abortion because the Malagasy law penalizes this action, which is punishable severely for the woman, the doctor and any other near or far near having contributed to this action. The law requires a sentence, ranging from 6 months to 10 years, according to their responsibilities. Although in fact the condemnation is almost non-existent. But the woman who has undergone surgery may already be condemned to psychological or physical trauma.
Besides the psychological and physical consequences, abortion with complications can result in bleeding, infertility, cervical cancer, a complication after the procedure can lead to death. Indeed, an estimated 575 Malagasy women die every year from the complications of abortion, according to the press release of the National Council of Women of Madagascar or CNFM. Faced with these fatal consequences, international human rights bodies recommend the decriminalization of induced abortion. The Human Rights Committee considered the report of Madagascar last July in Geneva.
Decriminalizing induced abortion?
A tribute session to Simone Veil was co-organized by the Mention Etudes Anglophones of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, which inaugurated in 2012 a Master in ‘Gender, Culture and Society’, and the CNFM, organizations working for gender equality and women’s rights. Last Wednesday at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Antananarivo. The theme of the tribute session was “Simone Veil and the Status of Women: What Inspiration for Madagascar?
“”In 1975, Simone Veil, then French Minister of Health, entered the history of modern France when the National Assembly finally adopted the bill it introduced, liberalizing contraception and the abortion. The latter was considered a crime in the Penal Code of 1810, while a law of 1920 repressed “propaganda contraception”, in order to repopulate France after the millions of deaths of the First World War. Fifty years later, the context had changed considerably. Despite opposition from the majority of Conservative MPs, the Veil law has passed, and since the French have been able to choose to have a child if they want and when they want. (CNFM)
“However, it is not only the right to choose who is at stake, it is the right to life,” emphasizes the CNFM. This is how the question arises: is it necessary to decriminalize induced abortion? If yes, why ? If not why ?
(1) maditra: malagasy word meaning “disobedient, insolent, who does not respect parents and elders”