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11/9/2012 - Kenyan Government Proposes Marriage Reform
The Kenyan Government has proposed a law that would ban mandatory bride-price payments, recognize co-habiting couples, and legalize polygamy. The Marriage Bill 2012 was approved by the cabinet but must also pass parliament before becoming national law.
Marriage Bill 2012 will eliminate the current customary law that dictates a marriage is not legal until a bride-price has been paid. This custom is practiced by more than 40 different ethnic groups in Kenya. The bill does not outlaw the practice, however, so families wishing to pay a bride-price would be allowed to do so.
The proposed marriage reform law would also recognize a couple that has been living together for six-months, so called "come-we-stay" relationships, as legally married. This provision of the proposed law aims to recognize these relationships in part to protect any children born to such couples that then separate, leaving one person alone to raise a child or children.
Marriage Bill 2012 would also legalize polygamy in respect to different cultures within Kenya where polygamous marriages are considered the norm. According to Africa Review, the cabinet issued a statement that the proposal seeks to bring together Christian, Hindu, Islamic, civil and traditional laws and provide protections for all different types of marriages in the country.
Other reforms included in the proposed law would protect widows from wife inheritance, raise the minimum age for marriage to 18, and give men and women equal status within all marriages. The bill does not recognize same-sex couples and defined marriage as the "voluntary union of a man and a woman intended to last for their lifetime."
According to the BBC, the vast majority of members of parliament are men and are likely to oppose sections of the bill on the basis of cultural and traditional values.
A 15-year-old Pakistani girl named Anusha was the victim of an "honor killing" last week at the hands of her parents. The specifics of what happened are uncertain, however reports indicate that Anusha died after her parents poured acid on her for turning to look at a boy or boys. It was reported that she was beaten by her father and then both of her parents poured acid on their daughter, resulting in much of her body being covered with burns. Anusha's parents did not take her to the hospital until the morning after the incident.
Though "honor killings" are frequent occurrences in Pakistan, as well as in other parts of the world, police report that Anusha's murder was the first of its kind in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, where such an act is a criminal offense that can lead to life imprisonment. While some deaths are not reported, there were at least 943 honor killings in Pakistan last year, according to the Huffington Post. A report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found that "throughout [last] year, women were callously killed in the name of honor when they went against family wishes in any way, or even on the basis of suspicion that they did so. Women were sometimes killed in the name of honor over property disputes and inheritance rights."
Anusha's parents have confessed to the honor killing and are being charged with murder. Human rights activists are working to end honor killing by attempting to control the sale of acid, creating a documentary on those who have survived acid attacks, and implementing educational programs.
Pakistani authorities arrested three men today who were allegedly involved in the shooting of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan's Swat Valley earlier this week. According to the Atlantic Wire the arrested men all named another man, called Attaullah, as the mastermid of the attack. Attaullah remains at large. On Tuesday, Pakistani Taliban members claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Malala Yousafzai is known for her outspoken criticism of Taliban atrocities. She was shot in the head after two men approached her school van on her way home from school Tuesday.
In early 2009, under a pen name, Yousafzai published a diary for the BBC that highlighted the Taliban ban against girl's education in the northwest Swat district of Pakistan. Yousafzai was awarded a cash prize and an award for her courageous peace work to raise awareness by the Pakistani government in 2011. In that same year, Yousafzai was also nominated for an International Children's Peace Price.
9/18/2012 - United Nations Releases LGBT Rights Publication
Yesterday the United Nations released "Born Free and Equal," a 60-page booklet detailing the basic legal rights States must provide LGBT individuals. In the pamphlet[PDF], the U.N. details five strategic areas to improve the condition of LGBT individuals: Protect LGBT people from violence, Prevent torture and inhumane treatment of detained LGBT individuals, Repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality, and Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Protect LGBT freedom of expression.
Some key policies the United Nations believes are necessary for LGBT individuals:
- Provide appropriate training for law enforcement for handling cases involving LGBT individuals and monitored detention areas
- Recognize a person's sexual orientation is subject to persecution that may require asylum
- Provide education about LGBT individuals and intersex individuals to reduce stigmatization
In the foreword of "Born Free and Equal," Navi Pillay United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated "For all the difficulties, this is a time of hope: an increasing number of States now recognize the gravity of the problem and the need for action. With commitment and the combined efforts of States and civil society, I am confident that we will see the principles of equality and non-discrimination translated into reality for millions of LGBT people around the world."
Many women in Bangladesh face poverty after a failed marriage as the result of discriminatory family laws according to a new Human Rights Watch report released on Monday.
According to the report, outdated family laws that do not recognize the rights of women in cases of divorce and abandonment drive women to stay in abusive marriages or live in poverty on their own. The few laws there are in place for protecting women are not enforced in family courts, leaving women with few resources.
While Bangladesh has different personal laws depending on the religion of the individuals, the Muslim, Christian and Hindu laws overlap with each other in places such as stricter qualifications for a separation for the woman and eliminating the right to equal marital property.
Human Rights Watch suggested the following measures for reducing the poverty among women in Bangladesh:
- Reform personal laws to remove discrimination on the basis of sex in marital property and rights to a divorce or separation and eliminate polygamy
- Publicize resources available through the law against domestic violence and ensure that they are implemented
- Make sure that family court eliminate unnecessary delays and grants protections in interim periods
- Reinforce and improve existing assistance programs for women such as shelters
Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Stephen Woodworth has proposed a private-member bill calling for the study of when a baby becomes a human being.
MP Woodworth's motion (motion 312) would review part of the Canadian homicide Criminal Code which states that a fetus becomes a human being at the moment of birth. Woodworth told reporters "Until a child's little toe pops out of the birth canal, that child is not recognized as a human being in Canada... [This law] dehumanizes and excludes an entire class of people."
Pro-choice activists are worried that this could be an attempt to criminalize abortion, though MP Woodworth claims that it would not change current laws. However, many anti-choice organizations have supported his motion. According to The Globe and Mail "By saying babies [are] not a human being until they are born, Mr. Woodworth said people can convince themselves that aborting a fetus is not the same as killing a human being - much like plantation owners in the deep south prior to the American Civil War convinced themselves that black slaves were not human."
Discussion on Motion 312 is set to resume on Friday, but Woodworth doubts he will receive the 50 per cent vote needed to pass. "At this point I am not optimistic that I will come close to the 50 per cent required to pass this motion, although I continue to want to meet with Members of Parliament and to try to convince them of that," Woodworth said.
9/4/2012 - Egypt Lifts Ban on Veiled Women TV Anchors
For the first time since the 1960's, a woman wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf known as a hijab, presented the news on an Egyptian state TV channel. Fatima Nabil appeared on Sunday to give the mid-day news bulletin. After her segment, Nabil told reporters "At last the revolution has reached state television."
Under former President Mubarak's regime, women were not allowed to wear a hijab on camera and either needed to remove their traditional covering or take a job behind the camera. Despite multiple lawsuits, the government ignored court rulings demanding the removal of the ban against veiled women appearing on state television.
As a result of the change, more women are expected to present news and weather updates in the country.
Many women in rural areas of Kenya do not seek prenatal care in clinics for fear of being stigmatized as being HIV positive, according to a study published in PLoS Medicine, the leading open-access medical journal.
The study, based on a 2007-2009 survey of 1,777 pregnant women in a highly populated area of rural Kenya, found that only 44% of young pregnant women gave birth in clinics. Many women chose to deliver outside of a clinic setting to avoid HIV testing, despite knowing the risks of spreading HIV to their baby without any treatment. One participant stated "There are men who don't like it when their women come to the clinic, and they do quarrel [with] their wives if they heard that the women were screened for HIV... Some men can even send their women away just because of that."
Similarly, a comprehensive literature review published in July by the Health Policy Project found the prevalence of HIV stigma affects women seeking prenatal care in other parts of Africa and the world. The tragedy is antiretroviral drug treatment during pregnancy reduces mother-to-child-transmission of HIV to less than 5% according to the World Health Organization, and prenatal care reduces maternal mortality.
8/27/2012 - Pussy Riot Members Flee Russia
Two members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot have fled Russia to evade arrest, according to the Huffington Post. Three members of the band were found guilty of "hooliganism" and sentenced to two years in prison earlier this month. The maximum sentence for the charges was seven years.
The hooliganism conviction stems from an action by five members of the band who performed a "punk prayer" (video) on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in dissent of Vladimir Putin. The members entered the church wearing bright colors and balaclavas, singing "Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!" They noted later that their intent was to challenge the Church's political support for Putin and to show their dissatisfaction with Putin's 12-year political dominance.
Following the three convictions in the case, police announced they were searching for the two members of the group who also participated in the performance but had not been identified due to the balaclavas the group wore.
Pussy Riot tweeted that the two members who have left the country are "recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new protest actions" and that twelve members of the group are still in Russia.
8/23/2012 - Iranian Graduate Programs Bar Women Applicants
Seventy-seven graduate programs will no longer be available to women in Iranian universities across the country, according to Iranian new site Rooz Online. The restrictions were added to the academic manuals of institutions this year without any warning. Since a news outlet discovered the restrictions earlier this month, the Ministry of Education and universities have been bombarded with demands for an explanation.
Subjects ranging from accounting, pure chemistry, mining engineering, and urban development engineering will only be available for male applicants in 36 different universities including the University of Tehran. Women have been accepted into these programs with no restrictions as early as last year. It is unclear if women students will be allowed to complete degrees they have already started. Female students who have been accepted that start in the coming academic year will not be able to study in certain fields.
Officials from the Ministry of Education justified the decisions of universities citing the "the basis of the needs and necessities of society." The Director General for the spread of education from the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology stated, "Some fields are not very suitable for women's nature such as agricultural machinery or mining, partly because of the hard work involved in them."
After the negative response to the new policies, many officials have attempted to back-track their statements. The decisions to bar women from specific programs also comes after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the end of sex segregation in schools, a practice that continues in many universities.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order Friday on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls around the world. The order creates an interagency working group that, according to senior advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett, is "designed to leverage our country's tremendous expertise and capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally as well as establish a coordinated, government-wide approach to address this terrible reality." The new working group will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and include representatives from at least 10 other government departments, agencies, and offices including the Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
A document outlining a new "multi-year strategy for preventing and responding to gender-based violence" developed by the State Department and USAID was also released (see PDF). The executive order requires this strategy document to be revised every three years. Objectives of the current strategy are:
- To Increase Coordination of Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Efforts among United States Government Agencies and with Other Stakeholders
- To Enhance Integration of Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Efforts into Existing United States Government Work
- To Improve Collection, Analysis, and Use of Data and Research to Enhance Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Efforts
- To Enhance or Expand United States Government Programming that Addresses Gender-based Violence
In his executive order, President Obama describes gender-based violence as "significantly hinder[ing] the ability of individuals to fully participate in, and contribute to, their communities -- economically, politically, and socially. It is a human rights violation or abuse; a public health challenge; and a barrier to civic, social, political, and economic participation. It is associated with adverse health outcomes, limited access to education, increased costs relating to medical and legal services, lost household productivity, and reduced income, and there is evidence it is exacerbated in times of crisis, such as emergencies, natural disasters, and violent conflicts."
7/12/2012 - Saudi Women to Participate in Olympics
Today, the IOC announced that two Saudi Arabian female athletes, Sarah Attar and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhan, qualified to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. This comes one month after Saudi Arabia announced that it would reverse its ban on women competing in the Olympic Games.
The country was under international pressure to reverse the ban earlier this year, after Qatar and Brunei made the decision to allow women to compete for the first time. However, earlier this week, it did not look like Saudi Arabia would be sending any women to the games, regardless of the lift of the ban.
Attar will compete in the 800m race and Shahrkhani will enter the Judo competition. Attar stated, "A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going. It’s such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport."
This will be the first year that every participating country will send female athletes to compete in the games. According to the New York Times, 26 countries failed to send any women to the Olympics in 1996. This year the United States will also be making feminist history by sending more women than men to the games for the first time.
Amnesty International issued an open letter to President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at their "Shadow Summit" Saturday urging both leaders to safeguard women's rights.
Forty-six people signed the open letter, including Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal and Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem. Other signatories include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; Sima Samar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Shiriin Ebadi; former Defense Secretary William Cohen; former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad; "The Kite Runner" author Khaled Hosseini; and actress Meryl Streep.
In part, the open letter (see PDF) states, "As champions of women's rights who are dedicated to protecting women's human rights, we are deeply concerned that the significant gains made by women and girls in Afghanistan may be threatened as U.S. and allied troops leave the country. We urge you to adopt a comprehensive action plan to guarantee that the clock is not turned back on a decade of strides in education, health, security and employment for women and girls. At stake is the future of Afghanistan, after billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives have been sacrificed. We believe if women's progress cannot be sustained, then Afghan society will fail."
The "Shadow Summit" in Chicago aimed to emphasize to NATO Summit leaders that Afghan women's and girls' needs must be front and center in all planning. "Adequate funding from NATO countries is essential for security and Afghan women's and girls' educational, health care, and economic programs. Afghan women's leaders must be represented in all the planning and decision-making," commented Eleanor Smeal, president of the FMF, which has led a US Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls for the past 15 years.
5/21/2012 - UN Report Shows Decline in Maternal Deaths
A UN report (PDF) released last week shows that worldwide maternal deaths declined by 47 percent from 1990 to 2010. In 1990, there were 543,000 maternal deaths and that number dropped to 287,000 in 2010. The report found that 99 percent of maternal deaths occurred in developing countries and one third of all maternal deaths occurred in India and Nigeria. It also states that most of maternal deaths were preventable.
Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund said "I am very pleased to see that the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth continues to decline. This shows that the enhanced effort of countries, supported by UNFPA and other development partners, is paying off. But we can't stop there. Our work must continue to make every pregnancy wanted and every childbirth safe."
The report defines maternal death as death "occurring during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes." The study was conducted by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, and the World Bank.
5/21/2012 - Shadow Afghan Summit Focuses on Women's Voices
The Shadow Summit hosted by Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) brought women's voices to the NATO Summit. Featured speakers, Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ambassador at Large for Women's Global Melanne Verveer, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-D), and Afghan Women's Leaders, Afifa Azim, director and co-founder of the Afghan Women's Network, and Manizha Naderi, executive director, Women for Afghan Women, and Mahbouba Seraj, also of the AWN, all said women's participation and concerns must be included to ensure an enduring peace, women's rights and advancement, and progress for all Afghans.
"We have to ensure that our commitment to Afghan women does not end as our troops come home," said Congresswoman Schakowsky, reported the Christian Science Monitor. The open letter (see PDF) released by AIUSA and signed by 48 Afghan, US, and British women leaders urged Afghan women's leadership and participation be front and center in all the transition planning and execution and urged the adoption of a plan for protecting and advancing Afghan Women's Rights.
The eight step plan includes not only women's participation but also that all negotiation teams include at least 30% women in the "peace" talks; that any agreements with the Taliban include guarantees of women's rights, a creation of a trust fund set aside for women and administered by women to protect women's rights and support civil society, and the enforcement of anti-violence against women's and women's rights laws. The US/Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement (see PDF) signed by Presidents Obama and Karzai on May 1 includes a guarantee of women's rights and advancement of women.
Manizha Naderi, who did not sign the open letter, issued a statement on behalf of Women for Afghan Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation. The two organizations warned that negotiating with the Taliban will not work and will produce disastrous results. Eleanor Smeal, president of the FMF, signed the joint statement and also signed the AIUSA open letter. "We do not believe the negotiations will work but if they take place (all talks have been suspended now) they must include women and the guarantee listed in the AIUSA statement," said Eleanor Smeal.
The United States and Afghanistan announced last week that the two countries have agreed on a draft of a strategic partnership which establishes US support in Afghanistan for a decade after the removal of combat troops. Combat troops are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. Under the agreement, which must still be approved by Congress and the White House, the US will continue to provide social and economic assistance as the country builds up its infrastructure and security.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "NATO and its partners cannot and will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014. Our ongoing support will be essential to preserving and building on the gains we've made thus far."
The announcement comes shortly after acts of violence against schools in Afghanistan. Last week, the Taliban closed or partially closed approximately 50 schools in southeast Afghanistan, many of which were girls' schools. On April 17th, 150 Afghan girls were poisoned in an attack on their school's water supply.
4/30/2012 - Suu Kyi will take Myanmar Oath of Office
Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a seat in Myanmar's (previously Burma) parliamentary election in the beginning of April as a member of the opposition National League for Democracy party, will take the country's oath of office. The oath ends the opposition party's boycott of the parliament. The decision is seen as a step towards compromise and reconciliation in the country.
Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said on a visit to Myanmar that the end of the boycott is a positive step and is "in the interest of greater democracy." Suu Kyi said that she would "take an oath for the country and for the people" and that "politics is an issue of give and take. We are not giving up; we are just yielding to the aspirations of the people."
Suu Kyi's victory in the election opens the possibility that the National League for Democracy party, which won 40 of the 45 contested seats, could take control of Myanmar's government in the next election in 2015. Nevertheless, the military, which holds a majority of the 664 parliamentary seats, continues to exert great influence over Myanmar's government. The National League for Democracy party has not won an election since 1990, although the results were then annulled by the army-junta that was in power at the time.
4/25/2012 - Afghan Girls' School Defies Threats
A school in Afghanistan continues to educate girls despite violent threats, reports the Washington Post. Started by two brothers in Spina, the school provides local girls with an education that they cannot receive from the US-funded school that is only for boys.
The school opened in 2007 after the US-funded girls' school was destroyed. The two brothers and a few other literate men began educating small groups of girls between the ages of 5 and 12 in the brothers' home. Today, the school has grown with morning classes for the younger students and afternoon classes for teenage girls. The school has been denied local funding and the brothers often receive threats of violence from Taliban insurgents. The school remains open though, and one of the brothers says "the girls just kept coming. They were so eager, like they were starving."
School enrollment in Afghanistan has increased from 5,000 girls under Taliban rule to 2.5 million girls. Still, 2 million Afghan girls are denied an education. Violence against girls' schools also continues. Last week, approximately 150 Afghan girls drank poisoned water at a school in the northern Takhar province. Afghan officials said that conservative radicals who oppose girls' education are to blame for the poisoning, though they would not name a specific group.
A man who hacked into Britain's largest abortion provider's computer system and stole information on 10,000 women has pleaded guilty to the charges. James Jeffery was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for stealing the information from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). He said he was prompted to steal the information because he disagreed with two women he knew who decided to have abortions. Jeffery intended to publish the women's information online.
BPAS has said that since Jeffery's arrest, there have been 2,500 additional attempts to hack their system. None of these attempts have been successful and no medical records are kept on the site. Many of the attempts originated in North America and BBC reports that half of the IP addresses were American. However, due to the nature of the attacks, it is unclear if these attempts came from the US.
4/17/2012 - Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned
Approximately 150 Afghan girls drank poisoned water on Tuesday at a school in the northern Takhar province. Afghan officials said that conservative radicals who oppose girls' education are to blame for the poisoning, though they would not name a specific group.
A spokesman for the education department of Takhar, Jan Mohammad Nabizada, said, "We are 100 percent sure that the water they drank inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls' education or irresponsible armed individuals."
The public health department said the tank that held the contaminated water was not affected, providing evidence that the poisoned water could not be explained by natural causes. Some of the affected girls suffered from headaches and vomiting and they are listed in critical condition. Others were treated and released.
Fawzia Koofi is the first person to announce an intention to run for the presidency in Afghanistan. Koofi, a women's rights advocate, was elected to parliament in 2005 and was reelected in 2010. Earlier this year, she received acclaim for her memoir, "The Favoured Daughter," in which she details how she was left outside to die immediately following her birth because she was a girl and how she became the first woman in her family to receive an education.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai must step down in 2014 due to term limits. Some western officials and women members of parliament have expressed concern that Karzai is trying to broker a power-sharing compromise with the Taliban to bring an end to the war. Koofi told Reuters, "He has lost the trust of this part of society - women, the civil movements, the activists, the Afghan youth and the intellectuals. That is why he is trying to now rely on conservative forces."
Koofi is outspoken against the Taliban and has decried Taliban rule. In an article for the Daily Beast, Koofi wrote, "can anyone really believe the Taliban will share power and be willing to sit in a democratic Parliament alongside a woman? I do not believe it."
An investigative report by BBC Journalist Natalia Antelava has revealed a government policy in Uzbekistan to sterilize women, mostly without their knowledge. Antelava gathered evidence that the government ran the sterilization program before she was deported from the country at the end of February.
The BBC reports that many women were forcibly sterilized after giving birth and were not told about the procedure. According to the report, many only discovered that they had been sterilized after seeking medical advice when they tried to become pregnant again. A gynecologist from the capital city, Tashkent, told Antelava that "every year we are presented with a plan. Every doctor is told how many women we are expected to give contraception to; how many women are to be sterilized."
The Expert Working Group, one of the only NGOs in Uzbekistan, estimated that the number of women who were forcibly sterilized is in the tens of thousands. Antelava also quotes a source at the Ministry of Health who says the program is intended to curb the country's growing population. The Uzbek government denies the claims and said the report was "slanderous and bore no relation to reality."
Aung San Suu Kyi, of the National League for Democracy party, won a seat in Myanmar's (previously Burma) parliamentary election last weekend. Her victory opens the possibility that the National League for Democracy party, which won 40 of the 45 contested seats, could take control of Myanmar's government in the next election in 2015. Nevertheless, the military, which holds a majority of the 664 parliamentary seats, continues to exert great influence over Myanmar's government.
Suu Kyi stated following the election, "We hope this will be the beginning of a new era...[the win] was not so much our triumph, as a triumph of the people."
The White House issued a statement today, which said "This election is an important step in Burma's democratic transformation, and we hope it is an indication that the government of Burma intends to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency, and reform."
The National League for Democracy party has not won an election since 1990, although the results were then annulled by the army-junta that was in power at the time.
"Multiple Deprivations and Maternal Care in India," a study conducted by Sanjay Mohanty and published in the March issue of International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, found that in India, impoverished women who lack education face significant barriers in their access to maternal healthcare, including antenatal and post natal care, as well as medical services at the time of their delivery. Low education was more strongly correlated with women's lack of access to reproductive health care than poverty or lack of adequate nutrition.
According to the study, "Only 25% of women with a combination of low education, poverty and who were underweight received the recommended number of antenatal visits, compared with 71% of women who did not have any of these characteristics; just 17% of these women gave birth with medical assistance, compared with 69% of other women; and 20% received appropriate postnatal care, compared with 61% of other women."
The authors of the study recommend that local healthcare workers, as well as mass media, be used as tools to inform women with less education about maternal health care services.
3/30/2012 - First-Ever Abortion Study in Rwanda
The first-ever nationwide study of abortion in Rwanda, conducted by the National University of Rwanda's School of Public Health and the Guttmacher Institute, indicated that 60,000 women obtain abortions annually in the country, amounting to 25 abortions for every 1,000 women who are of reproductive age. Moreover, in 2009, one in 40 women of reproductive age (between 15 and 44) had an abortion.
The researchers found that most of the abortions in Rwanda were performed in secret and were considered to be medically unsafe. According to the study, "25,000 women - more than 40% of women who had an abortion - suffered complications that required medical treatment. However, 30% of these women did not receive the medical care they required, indicating a greater need for postabortion care than is currently being provided."
Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda's Minister of Health stated, "Reducing maternal mortality and ill-health is a priority for Rwanda. These important findings will help us better address the issue and improve the health and well-being of Rwandan women and their families. The fact that so many women are suffering complications from unsafe abortion and that so many are not receiving the care they need is very concerning. It is clearly an issue we must address."
According to the World Health Organization, 17 percent of all maternal deaths in Eastern Africa are caused by unsafe abortions. Dr. Fidel Ngabo, Director of the Maternal and Child Health Unit at the Ministry of Health in Rwanda, noted, "Unintended pregnancy is the root cause of the vast majority of abortions. Addressing the unmet need for modern contraception is critical in order to reduce unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortions in Rwanda."