Gabon introduces laws to promote gender equality, relax abortion rules

MARCH 26, 2021
By Reuters Staff

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabon’s government has proposed new laws to promote gender equality and loosen restrictions on abortion, Prime Minister Rose Christiane Raponda said on Friday.

Parliament is expected to vote during its current session to allow divorce by mutual consent and to eliminate requirements that women obey their husbands and notify them when they open a bank account, Raponda told Reuters in an interview.


GABON – Therapeutic abortion legalised in Gabon, especially for girls, but criminal sanctions retained

GABON – Therapeutic abortion legalised in Gabon, especially for girls, but criminal sanctions retained

International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Nov 12, 2019

This is a summary of a report, in French, by Gabon Media Time. As part of reforms in the Penal Code, Law No. 042/2018 of 5 July 2019 in the Penal Code says that voluntary interruption of pregnancy is authorised in Gabon on the following grounds: “when it has been proved that the fetus will be born with serious or incurable physical malformations, when the pregnancy seriously compromises the mother’s life, or when the conception has taken place as a result rape or incest, or where a minor is in a state of serious distress”. The state of serious distress can be likened here to the incapacity or the impossibility for the minor to take care of her pregnancy and the child.

The legislation insists on the therapeutic character of the abortion, as provided by Article 378, and must be done “within a period of ten weeks, by a doctor and in a hospital”.

Illegal abortion “is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of 1,000,000 plus, or both, and if the woman has obtained an abortion for herself or has attempted to obtain it or has consented to the use of any means provided or administered for this purpose”.

The article concludes: “While welcoming the will of the Parliament to legalise abortion under certain conditions, the fact remains that the provisions of the third paragraph of Article 377, paragraph 2, create a breach of equality between minors and adult women. It grants the right to abortion to girls who are in a “state of serious distress” but not to women.

SOURCE: Gabon Media Time, by Pharel Boukika, 5 November 2019 (en français) ; PHOTO: UNFPA, 2 July 2018


Sensibilisation Santé Sexualité (Awareness Health Sexuality in Gabon)

Jan 13, 2017, by Safe Abortion

In Gabon, demographics is a sensitive political issue, due to its small population. 52% of the Gabonese population is under the age of 25. Because of sexual permissiveness, premarital and early relationships are common. Pregnancies are most often early, unwanted and too close together, leading to frequent abortions, STIs and increased infertility.

Long banned, modern contraception was only liberalised in the year 2000. Lack of access to information and counselling on birth spacing has meant that abortions practised in poor conditions were for many women the only available method of family planning. Here are some data from the 2012 Gabon Demographic and Health Survey:

– Maternal mortality stands at 316 deaths per 100,000 live births, mainly due to illegal abortions;

– 28% of girls aged 15-19 have already had a child or have been pregnant. By age 19, more than half have already proven their fertility;

– Modern contraceptive methods are used by barely 14.3% of the population. One in four women would like to limit their fertility but do not have access to the relevant information or services;

– 45% of girls in secondary schools have already had an illegal abortion;

– 64% of women say they would like to have more children (linked to secondary infertility following unsafe abortions);

– 56% of women report having experienced domestic violence (emotional, physical or sexual).

Why this project?

Port Gentil is the economic capital of Gabon, an oil and timber town of around 170,000 people. I have been living here for more than 17 years. As a practising gynaecologist, I am only too aware of the situation of women here. I’m tired of seeing young girls get pregnant too early; young women who are infertile from having too many abortions; women with multiple children who are again pregnant by chance, not by choice; not to mention the scourge of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

With a view to promoting sustainable development within our community, I have founded an association whose goal is to promote a healthy, responsible and fulfilling sexuality, the benefits of family planning and its positive impact on the whole society in terms of improving the overall health of the community:

– reducing maternal mortality and morbidity

– reducing infant mortality

– improving living standards by choosing the size of one’s family

– encouraging safe sexual practices, and

– empowering women above all.

Our activities

Our Centre aims to have a welcoming atmosphere, offering listening and counselling without prejudice or restrictions to young people in search of information about their emotional and sexual lives.

– We organise conferences/discussions in schools, business and communities (religious or others).

– We carry out campaigns in schools to raise awareness on different themes such as HIV, or sexual violence.

– We encourage local television and radio stations to cover our activities, so as to convey our prevention messages to as many people as possible.

– We are training sexual health educators (volunteers and young peer volunteers).

– We have set up a “Youth Counselling Centre” offering a warm welcome, a receptive ear and free and confidential advice to youth.

– We would like one day to become a truly integrated family planning centre as well as a centre for studies on sexual health in collaboration with various local and international partners.

SOURCE: Information sheet 2016; PHOTO

Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion