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Rwanda rape victims jailed for abortion

By Owen Weldon     Sep 26, 2015 in World
Two advocacy groups said that almost one in four women in a number of jails in Rwanda are serving time for illegal abortions, and many of them are rape survivors.
The advocacy groups also said the rape survivors should be able to get safe terminations under the law.
Under a 2012 code, abortions for pregnancies are allowed in Rwanda, when the pregnancy resulted from rape, forced marriage, incest or if the woman's health or fetus' health is at risk.
In a report earlier in the week, Rwanda's Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD) and IPAS said most jailed women are not aware of the law or they can't meet the burdensome requirements.
A judge needs to approve the abortion, and only a doctor can perform the procedure. When the grounds of the abortion is health, two doctors are required to give written approval.
Tom Mulisa, the GLIHD's executive director, said that most of the young girls who end up in prison didn't know a lot about contraceptives and nobody could get a lawyer because they couldn't pay for one.
Researchers found that 24 percent of the 1,306 female prisoners in five Rwandan jails were charged with having an illegal abortion done. Some of those women were sentenced to 15 years in jail.
Oda Gasinzigwa, the country's minister of gender and family promotion, said that the law must be respected. She added that they were not happy about any jailed women, and they want free women undertaking income-generating activities.
Every single one of the 20 females in jail said they were arrested after they sought emergency medical help from their neighbors or healthcare workers, who then contacted police to report them.
Often, women induce abortions by swallowing a cocktail of herbs or pills or they will use a stick to rupture the membrane that is around the pregnancy.
The report cited one student, who said she took a tablet that was given to her by the man who got her pregnant in the bathroom of her school. She said he disappeared and she had a miscarriage, and police were notified about the incident by school officials.
The student spent a year in jail because she was below the age of consent in the country. At the time of the incident, she was 17-years-old.
Mulisa said underage girls should not be prosecuted. He said there should be no case because when a woman is underage, there is no consent and it is rape.
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