I read an article on the Guardian today about an 11 year old girl in Senegal who was raped and subsequently unwillingly had twins as a result of the fact that there is a ban on abortion in Senegal. In Senegal, the only ground upon which an abortion may be given the go ahead, is if it is to save the life of the pregnant woman – or in this case, a child. This law falls under the Criminal Code of Senegal and it means that anyone performing an abortion on a pregnant ‘woman’ whether she consents or not is subject to imprisonment for one to five years and also is landed with an enormous fine.
Reading the story of this little girl made me feel really quite sad, and although as a Christian I do not condone abortions, I am also not a supporter of the idea of not giving individuals the option and having control over their own lives. The girl talks about the different ways that having the twins will impact her life and it seems as though the negatives far surpass any positive factors. Whether or not there should be a right to have an abortion has been a contentious issue for many years and in my opinion a very well argued one too, from both corners.
I am of the opinion that every circumstance is different. Becoming pregnant as a result of a rape of an 11 year old girl is very different to becoming pregnant as a result of a drunken mistake between two fully grown adults. In the same way a wealthy woman with no kids becoming pregnant is very different to a working class single parent with six children becoming pregnant. I feel as though in situations like this, we need to promote the idea of looking at individual situations with a fresh perspective. This girl has now given birth to a set of twins to whom she is their sole responsibility. How will she continue her education effectively? How will she get over the constant reminder of what happened to her? It is such a sensitive topic.
What do you think? Should she have been given the option?
The HIV Prevention and Control Act was passed by the Ugandan government yesterday and many have questioned and challenged the legality of an act which has been considered to be discriminatory as well as a violation of the human rights of those who fall within the scope of the act. The act places mandatory testing on pregnant women and their partners and also gives medical providers the permission to disclose the HIV status of individuals to others. For me, however the most controversial element of the act is the way in which it criminalises the transmission of HIV, attempted HIV transmission and any behaviour that might result in transmission by those who are aware of their HIV status. For a very long time the spread of HIV has been a contentious issue in many parts of Africa, and it feels almost as though the enactment of this legislation only operates to take us a step backward in the fight against the stigmatisation and prejudice that HIV carriers face today.
The act seems to attempt at some form of compromise by asserting that the transmission of the disease must be ‘wilful’ or ‘intentional’ – but how do you prove this? It is difficult and indeed problematic and can potentially cause quite serious tensions in Uganda – an unnecessary addition to the tensions that already exist surrounding HIV. However, what is most important is the fact that the act does nothing to challenge the ever increasing rates of HIV infection in Uganda. What do we do about those who spread the disease unintentionally? Currently 7.2 per cent of the population in Uganda live with HIV which totals to around 1.4 million people – including 190,000 children. Something more substantial than a discriminatory and inattentive piece of legislation needs to be done. The executive director of Uganda Network on law, ethics and HIV/AIDS summarised the issue in a great way by saying that: ‘for Uganda to address its HIV epidemic effectively, it needs to partner with people living with HIV, not blame them, criminalise them, and exclude them from policy making’.
What do you think?