JULY 21, 2010: Country Yet to Ratify Women's Automatic Right to Abortion

Country Yet to Ratify Women's Automatic Right to Abortion

SOURCE: New Vision

By Anne Mugisha and Frederick Womakuyu

Kampala — Uganda has not ratified the Maputo Protocol which calls for the promotion of African women's rights over abortion.

The protocol, which calls for women's civil, political and reproductive health rights, also calls for a blanket right to abortion.

The gender and culture state minister, Rukia Isanga Nakadama, yesterday said abortion was a very controversial issue, which had raised opposition from different groups of Ugandans.

"Some articles in the protocol call for abortion but religious and cultural groups want them amended before we can ratify the protocol," she said.

"This protocol will help us to improve maternal and child health in our country. The contentious article has been revised according to the Ugandan laws and we are going to ratify it soon," Nakadama added.

The minister was attending the regional rural women's conference at the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe.

The meeting is expected to make resolutions on issues affecting women and forward them to the African Union Summit for consideration.

Nakadama also launched the Uganda baseline survey on the African women's rights protocol, which seeks to change negative power relations, gender inequality against African women and also guarantee their rights.

Uganda is one of the 22 African countries that signed the protocol but have not yet ratified it. About 27 nations signed and ratified it while four have neither signed nor ratified it.

The Maputo Protocol urges countries to provide adequate, affordable and accessible family planning, prenatal, delivery, post-natal, health and nutritional services.

"Research shows that 80% of maternal deaths could be averted if women had access to essential maternity and basic health care services," the UNFPA gender advisor for Africa, Miriam Jato, said.

The Akina Mama wa Africa executive director, Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, noted that some of the African countries have not signed and ratified the protocol due to lack of political will because they feel women issues do not matter. She added that most countries also lack advocacy because people do not understand what is in the protocol.

Among the challenges she cited is the slow law reform process, cultural and traditional practices that discriminate against women and the girl child.

Others, she said, are the low literacy rates for women that impede access to social services and participation in economic activities and the high levels of poverty and violence against women.

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