A 10-year-old Senegalese rape survivor will have to bear twins despite the push by women’s rights activists for a legal abortion.
"She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy," Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese women lawyers' association, confirmed to the Guardian. "The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care."
The girl, who is five months pregnant with her neighbor's children, is the victim of the country’s Napoleonic abortion law.
"Senegal's abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa," Camara said. "A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years ... For a termination to be legal in Senegal, three doctors have to [certify] that the woman will die unless she aborts immediately. Poor people in Senegal are lucky if they see one doctor in their lifetime, let alone three."
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Estimates reveal that hundreds of Senegalese women die every year from complications related to illegal abortions.
Four women were held in custody for abortion or infanticide-related crimes in the first half of last year, according to official figures.
The women lawyers’ association is still lobbying Senegal’s MPs to change legislation to align with the African charter on women’s rights. Ratified in Senegal a decade ago, the charter dictates that abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s health is threatened, but the laws have never been changed.
"The greatest unfairness is that the poor are the victims of our archaic legislation," Camara said. "Anyone with enough money can easily have an abortion at a private clinic. But if you are poor, you are expected to go through the legal motions or risk your life in a backstreet clinic. Senegal must legalize medicalized abortion so that we never see any more cases like hers. Had we had time and had the girl's parents been willing, we could have asked a judge to consider guaranteeing immunity from prosecution to an [abortion] doctor. However, the family is poor; the process is difficult enough for them. They were just pleased when the rapist was arrested."