Abiding by Senegalese law, a 10 year old girl was compelled to complete her pregnancy despite having little knowledge of the ‘facts of life.’
The girl, who just turned 11, told the Guardian newspaper that she did not even realize she was pregnant. “My mother saw my body changing and because I was vomiting she took me to the hospital. In the last few months my head ached and I could hardly stand up.”
Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese women lawyers’ association, argued with authorities that the girl from southern Senegal should have the pregnancy terminated.
“Senegal’s abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa,” said Kine Camara. “A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years.”
Forty women were held in custody in Senegal on charges linked to the crimes of abortion or infanticide in the first six months of last year, official figures show. According to estimates, hundreds of women die every year from botched illegal terminations.
“For a termination to be legal in Senegal, three doctors have to certify that the woman will die unless she aborts immediately. Poor people in Senegal are lucky if they see one doctor in their lifetime, let alone three,” Camara said in an interview with the Guardian.
“We had a previous case of a raped nine-year-old who had to go through with her pregnancy. We paid for her caesarean but she died a few months after the baby was born, presumably because the physical trauma of childbirth was too great.”
The women lawyers’ association is lobbying MPs to align Senegal’s abortion legislation with the African charter on women’s rights, which the country ratified 10 years ago. Its provisions – legal medical abortion in cases of rape and incest, or where a woman’s physical or mental health is threatened – have never been added to the statute book.
A legal drop-in center in Dakar helps women to deal with these issues. “We all work for free and we are open to everyone. But it is very clear that women’s and children’s rights are the ones that are most often ignored,” Camara said.
The young girl delivered two boy babies in the 7th month. Her attacker is in custody.