Namibia is under the spotlight this month as it resumes public hearings on abortion on 16 January. This follows the hearings which took place late last year, and will hopefully play an important role in the liberalization of abortion laws in the country.
The current laws regulating abortion are no longer fit for purpose – not least because the Abortion and Sterilisation Act of 1975 was adopted under apartheid South African rule and has since been repealed in South Africa. The Act currently permits abortion only in very limited circumstances, and imposes criminal penalties on women who obtain and those who perform abortions outside of this limited scope.
Those who can afford it are forced to travel to South Africa for abortion care, but this option is out of reach for many women. The law, therefore, impacts far more heavily on poor and black women, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and reinforcing injustices.
In 2020, 62,000 Namibians signed a petition calling for the liberalization of abortion laws, so there is certainly public backing for progress. The upcoming hearings are a key opportunity to make positive changes in the lives of all women, regardless of religious beliefs, age, race, and socioeconomic status.