On 20-22 August 2013 Mr Yves Sezirahiga, the head of Human Rights and Access to Justice unit of IPHR, participated in a regional workshop on "Abortion, Reproductive Rights and the Role of Lawyers" that was organized in Nairobi by Ipas. This training brought together lawyers working in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia and Rwanda who are well versed in reproductive rights and committed to promoting access to safe abortion.
The objectives of the workshop were: (1) to share their work promoting reproductive rights and access to safe abortion and learn from others, (2) to build capacity in promoting abortion rights through constitutional reform, improving access to medication abortion, law reform, working with law enforcement, and communications, and (3) to cultivate relationships among lawyers working on abortion in the region.
Like many african countries, Rwanda has recently introduced restrictive provisions related to abortion in the Penal Code. According to article 165 of new Penal Code (2012) of Rwanda, abortion can be accepted only in case of rape, incest, forced marriage or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the mother's life. Apart from the last case, in the three other circumstances abortion can only be authorized by a court. This really threatens the reproductive rights of women and girls in Rwanda. During the training, Mr Yves did a presentation where he raised the issue caused by the criminalization of abortion under Rwandan law. He recalled Rwanda's international obligations especially regarding Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of women in Africa in its article 14(a) and (c) enjoining State parties to "insure that the right to health of women, including sexual and reproductive health is respected and promoted. This includes: a) the right to control their fertility [...] and c) the right to choose any method of contraception".
IPHR is strongly advocating for the promotion of reproductive rights for all Rwandan women. This workshop was part of our regional networking and efforts to equip IPHR staff with necessary knowledge and skills to better promote women's rights. A project to raise the awareness of the Rwandan judiciary (judges, prosecutors, police, and lawyers) about women's reproductive rights is underway in a perspective of promoting access to safe abortion.
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