Zimbabwe teens' demand for illegal abortions soar

2015-06-26 20:53

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bulawayo - The death of a 15-year-old Zimbabwean schoolgirl during an apparent botched abortion this month has spurred calls for stronger efforts to prevent teenage pregnancies and unsafe terminations.

Health campaigners in Zimbabwe say the girl's death in a Bulawayo township highlights the inadequate sexual and antenatal health care available to teenagers, whose parents are reluctant to accept they are sexually active.

School authorities and local media have reported cases ranging from schoolgirls giving birth in school grounds to teenage girls hiding their newborn babies in cupboards.

In Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo, health officials also report a spike in the number of teenage girls seeking post-abortion health care.

Abortion in Zimbabwe is only permitted by law if the pregnancy is a result of rape or there are risks to the mother or the unborn child.

But the Bulawayo municipality says in 2013, more than 300 abortion cases were recorded in seven months in its antenatal clinics, with an unspecified number of teenage girls treated for post-abortion trauma, including severe abdominal pain.

The city's health department officials told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they were still compiling updated statistics for abortion and attempted abortion cases.

"It is no longer a secret that school girls are sexually active and some are aborting," said Susan Karonga, a secondary school teacher who taught the deceased Bulawayo teenager. "But what can we [teachers] do?"

In an effort to tackle teenage pregnancies, Education Minister Lazarus Dokora earlier this year rekindled the suggestion that contraceptives should be made available in schools.

The proposal was met with hostility by many parents, and the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

Concoctions of herbs

Up to 59% of sexually active women in Zimbabwe have access to contraceptives - among the highest levels in sub-Sahara Africa, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

Zimbabwe is aiming to increase this to 68% by 2020, based on commitments made at the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning.

But evidence pointing to an increase in abortions among teenagers highlights the difficulties schoolgirls face accessing contraception in the predominantly Christian country where pregnancy out of wedlock is still stigmatised.

Karonga said pupils "dumped by their lovers and abusers" were undergoing unsafe abortions carried out by older women in their neighbourhoods in very dangerous conditions.

"I have heard about wires being inserted in the girls' privates and pulling out the foetus while others are prescribed concoctions of herbs," the teacher said.

Medical and aid charities working to reduce Zimbabwe's maternal mortality rates, which they say are increased by unsafe abortions, have asked parliament to review the country's abortion laws.

Campaigners say up to 70 000 illegal abortions are carried out annually in Zimbabwe, despite the risk of a five-year jail term.

Marie Stopes International, an NGO that offers free contraception at public clinics, including long-acting and permanent (LAPM) contraceptives, says in 2013, it helped to avert 31 000 unsafe abortions.

"Abortion is real here, some mothers have actually approached me asking if I could help their school-going daughter abort," said Silabazio Tshili, a midwife at a government hospital.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  health  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.