Cameroon Stands in Solidarity with Women and Girls

Prof Leke quote

Standing in Solidarity with women and girls to mark International Safe Abortion Day, 28 Sept. 2020 in Cameroon

The Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon (SOGOC) marked the International Safe Abortion Day by dispelling the popular myth that abortion is completely illegal in Cameroon.

SOGOC commemorated the event by engaging with the media to educate women and girls on their right, as well as educating the public about the legal framework in place concerning abortion and on the dangers of unsafe abortion, which often results in preventable maternal mortality.

The President of the society, Prof Emeritus Robert Leke granted an interview to the National Daily Cameroon Tribune and The NewsWatch Newspaper. He clearly explained the legal provisions of the Cameroon penal code about abortion. Prof. Leke clarified access to safe abortion is guaranteed under Cameroon’s legal framework, but on very restrictive grounds. He emphasised that contrary to a popular belief in Cameroon that abortion is entirely illegal, the law allows for therapeutic abortion in circumstances of rape and when the continuation of the pregnancy endangers the mother’s health.

President Leke emphasised that SOGOC is dedicated to reducing maternal deaths linked to unsafe abortions, as close to 25% of the maternal deaths in Cameroon are caused by complications of unsafe abortion.

Unsafe abortions are a preventable tragedy. It is the third leading cause of maternal deaths with about 47,000 women dying annually..  The risk of dying from an unsafe abortion is highest in Africa. Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexual education, use of effective contraception, the timely provision of safe abortion for eligible cases and prompt care for unsafe abortion complications.

Prof. Leke seized the opportunity to reiterate that Article 339 of the Cameroon penal code spells out conditions for access to safe abortion. Prof Emeritus Leke however reiterated that the article needs to be reviewed, to ensure that incest, the mental health of the woman/girl and severe foetal malformations can also be considered as factors that would allow a woman/girl to access a safe and legal abortion in Cameroon. 

In a newspaper article with the National Daily Cameroon Tribune, the Focal Point of the ACAC project Dr Filbert Eko discussed the phenomenon of unsafe abortion which is rising in Cameroon. He highlighted the definition of safe abortion as being ‘an abortion carried with a method that is recommended by WHO and that is appropriate to the pregnancy duration, and when the person carrying out the abortion has the necessary skills.’ Such abortions can be done using tablets (medical abortion) or a simple outpatient procedure. On the other hand, an abortion is unsafe when it is carried out either by a person lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.

Dr Filbert Eko also addressed the importance of ensuring access to comprehensive abortion care services for eligible cases and decried the high ignorance and stigma associated with the topic abortion in Cameroon. 

SOGOC is committed to promoting a Cameroon where optimum reproductive healthcare is available, accessible and affordable to all women/girls in Cameroon so that preventable maternal deaths can be reduced.

Contact SOGOC via website

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The full interviews and news articles can be found here.