Sexuality awareness programmes to restrain early pregnancies

02Jul 2019
Gaudensia Mngumi
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Sexuality awareness programmes to restrain early pregnancies

IN Tanzania abortion is legally restricted, permitted only to save the life of the mother. Chapter 16 of the Penal Code criminalises the entire process from attempting to procuring child destruction.

Section 150 of chapter 16, stipulates that it is illegal to procure own miscarriage making one liable to seven years imprisonment.

Anyone who supports that ‘illegal act’ by supplying drugs and instruments to procure abortion faces three years imprisonment in jail, states section 152. Furthermore, it is stipulated in section 219, that anybody who found guilty for of child destruction shall be convicted to life imprisonment

But, at least 405,000 illegal abortions occur every year in Tanzania killing a sizable number of women, according to the Guttmacher Institute research conducted in Tanzania in 2016.

According to the Institute, an estimated 405,000 abortions were performed in 2013. This number translates to a rate of 36 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–49 and a ratio of 21 abortions per 100 live births.

“The country’s abortion rate is the same as the estimated rate for the East Africa region as a whole (36 per 1,000 women) and slightly higher than the rate for Sub-Saharan Africa. Within Tanzania, abortion rates vary widely by zone, from 11 per 1,000 women in Zanzibar to 47 in the Southern Highlands and 51 in the Lake zone. The Lake Zone and Southern Highlands also have high rates of treatment for complications of induced abortion,” the research indicated.

It further observed that in 2013 in the country as a whole, about 15 percent of pregnancies ended in abortions.

The study which also incorporated Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Association Tanzania (AGOTA) and the Amref Health Africa, found that mostly these abortions are done outside the legal strictures and are definitely contributors to high maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the country.

“The Domestic Health Surveys (2018) revealed the MMR in the country is alarming as around 556 women die in every 100,000 live births due to pregnancy and child birth related complications.

Unsafe abortion being one of the causes, is the mostly secret procedure with probably very high complications rate, according to Dr Anna Temba,” gynecologist working for PSI Tanzania.

Delivering key point on illegal abortion in media training workshop held in Mwanza on April 2019, Doctor Temba noted that such abortions can lead to death because are performed locally without insufficient medical training, while some are done in a setting that does not meet any medical standards.

“These can lead to seriously internal hemorrhaging, some can cause infection and perforation of the intestines, or uterus and some to death if one doesn’t receive proper post abortions care on time.” She said.

In April 2019, The Guardian did a media survey on the extent of illegal abortion in some parts of Magu district in Mwanza region. During the interviews it was revealed that abortion providers were scattered in many parts of the township.

Many who are doing the business are trained medical officials, quacks and some with very poor knowledge on abortion are also running the show. Despite that abortions are secretly done all the time and across various social structures according to Magu Mjini Councilor Mashaka Thomas.

Thomas said in Magu, it looks like everyone can access and afford illegal abortion services because there are skilled doctors who can perform it professionally, but many poor women and teen girls take refuge in dangerous and quack doctors including the traditional healers.

He indicated that Magu community is very much aware of the Tanzania restrictive abortion laws that is why many poor clients (women) take refuge in traditional healers who perform illegal abortions secretly while charging low fees.

"We all know that youths are indulging in sex. It is a pity that the so called ‘globalisation and the insistence on human rights’ has prevented the society to tell the teenagers what is wrong and what is right. That is why abortion is becoming rampant in this time around,” said to the councilor.

Thomas said it is a pity that many voices are telling the youths to engage in safer sex. The voices are heard in schools, communities in the radios, TVs and the social media, they are not told about the danger that is embedded in sexual intercourse that is why illegal abortions are rampant.

CAN WE PREVENT?

The Council noted that abortion is preventable if the Tanzania community can talk about bad side of sex not the good side of sexual intercourse.

“There are common comments or responses encouraging unsafe sex that are heard among the teenagers, youths and many others in the community –at homes, workplaces or in schools -all over the country. If we continue to listen and do nothing about it can we have an abortion free Tanzania? Definitely we cannot. Now let us talk to our teen about the negative side of unsafe sex to prevent illegal abortions”.

A midwife Joanes Sanga, said that septic abortion precisely has a lot of impact on maternal mortality in the community however, despite that there is no data to substantiate that, but the nation ought to have programmes and strategies to sensitize teenage on consequences of indulging in premarital sex and illegal abortions.

Sanga working for Tumbi Designated Referral Hospital in Pwani region, said it is time for various actors in Tanzania, the government, teachers is schools, clerics, parents and guardians to tell teen the risks of premarital sex, early pregnancy and unsafe abortions.

“Let us teach our children and the young generation to behave decently and not to lose themselves in sexual immoralities, drinking and drug abuse because these have consequences for any human’s life,” Sanga noted.

When asked if Tanzania can revisit the abortion law, Sanga said it should not be done, because the problem is not the law rather it is sexual immoralities and youths should be taught to control and manage their body desires.

She adds: “As parents and guardians at home let us talk about sex with our children, this is the most critical issue that children face. We know that children face serious and critical challenges in learning about sexuality and making intelligent decisions.

Let us do it at home, then teachers and educators in schools and colleagues, the communities, clerics where we worship before we jump into the abortion law revision.”

Sanga believes that when girls and women are taught about side effects of sex they will definitely understand that sexual immoralities will often result into endless guilt and deaths as a result of unsafe abortion and much more other tragedies.

Pastor Robert Ngondo, from the Pentecostal church of Tanzania has the views that unsafe abortions will be contained if the nation invests in programmes that turns away the mind of young people who think that to indulge in pre-marital sex will bring them happiness, affection and love.

“Our world is full of sexual images. They are presented in still pictures, youtube videos, music and dances. So parents and the entire nation need to talk about sex to our teenagers in order to prevent child sex, early pregnancies and unsafe abortions.”

Pastor Ngondo is challenging the media to consider its ways, because it has been responsible for portraying images that promote sexual desires.

According to him, movies on the TVs most of the time show that sex is good and true life is about sex, making love even with multiple partners.

It is through media that children, teens and everybody is told about sex and it is portrayed as a funny and most important thing for modern life.

“Tanzania media should reverse the trend to portray the image of the bad side of sex, to show our communities the negative impact of sexual immoralities and how it has traumatised our girls and the nation,” advised Pastor Ngondo.

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