Lawmaker calls for the legalization of abortion amidst opposition from traditional leaders


HWANGE Central legislator, Daniel Molokele (CCC), has urged for the repeal of Zimbabwe's Termination of Pregnancy Act, arguing that it contradicts the Constitution's gender equality clause and puts women at risk.

Zimbabwean lawmaker calls for legal abortion amid traditional opposition
Image: Getty Images/Amnesty International

Molokele, speaking in the National Assembly last week, pointed to data showing a high incidence of abortions, especially among high school and university students. He argued that the 1977 Termination of Pregnancy Act, one of the country's oldest laws, is outdated and possibly unconstitutional. 

He called for a new Act that acknowledges women's rights and rejects the patriarchal bias of the old Act.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, agreed on the need for reform but suggested expanding the conditions for legal termination rather than outright repeal. 

The current Act allows abortion only in three specific cases: risk to the woman's life or health, serious physical or mental defects in the child, or pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

Despite these restrictions, reports indicate a rise in abortions, with women resorting to unsafe methods such as illegal abortion pills and herbs. In 2021, Dr Ruth Labode, then-chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, reported an increase in illegal abortions from 60,000 to 80,000 annually.

However, the proposal has met with strong opposition. Traditional leaders, including Chief Ngungumbane of Mberengwa District and Chief Siabuwa of Binga, equated abortion to murder and warned against adopting foreign cultures. 

Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs president, Senator Chief Mtshane Khumalo, also rejected the idea as foreign to Zimbabwean values.

Religious leaders have also weighed in. Archbishop Alex Thomas of the Roman Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of Bulawayo cited the biblical commandment against killing, while Reverend Nhlanganiso Moyo of the Presbyterian Church supported legalisation but with clear guidelines to prevent moral decay.

Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe health cluster lead executive director, Edinah Masiyiwa, backed the call to repeal the Act, highlighting the high cost of treating unsafe abortions compared to providing safe abortion services.

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