What do you do when your country is torn between decriminalizing abortion and maintaining its colonial abortion laws? Start a debate.That’s the idea being put forward by Esther Muinjangue, Namibia’s deputy minister of health and social services.
The southern African nation has recently seen protests from both anti-abortion activists and abortion rights advocates.On June 25, Muinjangue, dressed in black, stood before the Namibian parliament and put forward a motion to debate the pros and cons of making on-demand abortions available to women in the country.
“Whether or not legalized, abortion is a reality in our society and hence the need to debate on it, weigh the pros and cons, the advantages and disadvantages, in order for us as a country to make informed decisions,” she said during her televised appearance at the National Assembly.Muinjangue added that it was important for lawmakers to look into the reasons for abortions before making a decision to keep or repeal Namibia’s law on the conditions for terminating pregnancies.
Under Namibia’s Abortion and Sterilization Act of 1975, abortions are illegal for women and girls, except in cases involving incest, rape, or where the mother or child’s life is in danger.
Namibia inherited the law from neighboring South Africa during apartheid, a system of legislation that segregated and discriminated against non-white South Africans.According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, the law was put in place in 1975 to ensure that the white population in South Africa would continue to procreate amid fears that the black population was growing too quickly.
Even though South Africa changed its law in 1996, two years after the end of the apartheid, Namibia continued to uphold the criminalization of abortions.
And as Muinjangue and her colleagues in the Namibian parliament continue to debate whether or not they want to keep upholding this 45-year-old law, feminists and activists in the country are calling it discriminatory and lobbying for it to be repealed.
“These laws are truly outdated and the countries we inherited those laws from have long changed theirs. Meanwhile, we still continue to keep ours,” Naisola Likimani told CNN.