AllAfrica: Rwandan Govt Takes Critical Step in Recognizing Women's Fundamental Human Rights

Affirming the importance of women's access to safe and legal abortion, the Rwandan government has lifted its reservation to Article 14(2)(c) of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights of Women in Africa (also known as the Maputo Protocol). The Maputo Protocol is the only international treaty that explicitly guarantees the right to legal abortion. Under the Protocol, the Rwandan government is now required to "protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus."

This development comes on the heels of a significant reform to Rwanda's abortion law. The Rwandan Government recently signed into law a new penal code reducing harsh criminal penalties against women who terminate their pregnancies and doctors who perform abortions.

"Rwanda has taken a critical step forward in its efforts to respect women's fundamental reproductive and human rights by expanding the grounds upon which abortion is legally permitted," said Elisa Slattery, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Women who become pregnant as a result of rape, incest, or forced marriage - or whose pregnancy endangers their health - are now legally entitled to safe abortion services."

"We hope other African nations follow Rwanda's lead and affirm women's fundamental reproductive rights by ratifying the Maputo Protocol without reservations."

Unsafe abortion is one of the most easily preventable causes of maternal mortality and Rwanda has one of the worst ratios in the world, at 340 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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