ABORTION IN THE CAMEROON CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
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Abortion which is not a new issue has to do with the ending of a pregnancy by removal or by expulsion of an embryo. In the past various methods were been used to carry out the act of abortion including the administration of abortifacients herbs which were being used by a wide variety of tribal people. The earliest known record of abortion can be dated far back as 2700bc in Egypt. Back in these early times there were no laws regulating abortion.
There are controversies surrounding the practice of abortion especially in developing countries in Africa. People in these countries have different views on the issue of abortion due to their religious, social, cultural backgrounds.
The general rule on abortion in Cameroon states that abortion is illegal pursuant to Section 337 of the 2007 Cameroon penal code. This law has its exceptions under Section 339 of the same penal code (P.C) whereby abortion is permitted by the Cameroon legal system. This brings the notion of legal and illegal abortion. Looking at instances where the law permits abortion, it is to be done by a qualified practitioner so that it can be done safely though it is in some cases still done by persons not qualified to carry out the act thus coming out with the notion of unsafe abortion. Abortion law in Cameroon is highly restrictive and has to be carried out safely if need be. Though with this unsafe abortion is still highly carried out though with little reported cases of persecution even when the abortions are reported to have been carried out illegally.
The World Health Organization recognized (WHO) defines an unsafe abortion as that which is carried out by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards. The (WHO) recognized the issue of unsafe abortion in 1967 as a public health problem and thus policy in 2003, policy guidelines which included recommendations for state3s to pass abortion laws so as to protect the health of women. Still with the issue of unsafe abortion, at the 1994 conference in Cairo on Population and Development, 179 governments signed a program of action that included a commitment to prevent unsafe abortion.
1.1. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Abortion has been commonly practiced for a long time throughout most of the world either in legal or illegal conditions. The ever first recorded evidence of abortion (induced) is from the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus in 1550BCE. Looking at abortion in the premodern era, the methods used to carry out the act of abortion were non-surgical. Instead, physical activities such as; strenuous labor, climbing, paddling, weightlifting were common techniques used. Also the use of irritated leaves, fasting, lying on a heated coconut shell and many others. In the modern era (19c) medicines were improved upon.
In the past, there were no laws on abortion. The act of abortion was freely carried out and only punishable if it was carried out without the approval of the husband. Abortion has previously been widely practiced and legal under common law at the early stages of pregnancy, but the English-speaking world has passed laws against abortion in all stages of pregnancy. Many factors contributed to this shift in the in opinion about abortion in the 19th c. some of this reasons are;- firstly, physicians in the United States who were the leading advocates of abortion criminalization laws, some of them argued that if abortion is not allowed after quickening then it should not also be allowed before quickening.
-secondly, practical reasons also had a great influence in the imposition of anti-abortion laws, abortion providers tended to be untrained and not members of medical society.
The first English law on abortion was first codified in legislation under section 1& 2 of Malicious Shooting or Stabbing Act 1802. The punishment according to section 1 was death and otherwise by section 2 was transportation for 14years. This law faced challenges and thus was amended in 1828 and 1837 which removed the distinction between women who were quick with child and those who were not and also removed the death penalty. Mid of the 19thc saw the increased in abortion as more people were being punished for the act of abortion. Anti-abortion statutes began to appear in the United States from 1820 and by 1910 nearly every state had anti-abortion laws.
Over the years, changes in laws of abortion and even changes in professional attitudes towards abortion has been made. In some few countries, abortion is totally banned, in some (example Japan) the act of abortion is legally and can be freely carried out while in most the act of abortion is banned but can be carried out on certain conditions. Due to this in these countries were abortion is technically legal, access to facilities and authorized personnel may be limited or even the resources to pay for abortion may be lacking, this can lead to unsafe or illegal abortion being carried out. According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of 196 countries based on 2013 United Nations (U.N) data, the laws on abortion may vary from country to country, but nearly all nations (about 96%) allow women to terminate their pregnancies in order to save their lives and on other grounds such as pregnancies gotten through rape and insest. Actually only six(6) countries do not allow women to terminate a pregnancy no matter the circumstances, this countries include; Latin American nations of Chile, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua and also Vatican City which is in Europe.
In 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized unsafe abortion as a public health problem. According to the (WHO) approximately 8% of maternal death worldwide are due to complications from unsafe abortion of which most occur in developing countries. At an international conference in 1994 on Population and Development, 179 governments signed a program of action which included a commitment to prevent unsafe abortion. In 2003, policy guidelines were developed by the WHO which included recommendations for states to pass abortion laws to protect women`s health. In this light most European countries in trying to reduce the rate of abortion have turn to introduce, encourage the use of contraceptives rather than abortion.
There have been various arguments either in support or against the act of abortion. This is because people want to bark their various views on abortion, people who bring up arguments against the act of abortion stems up from the fact that a fetus or embryo is a human with rights to life, also abortion which takes away the life of the fetus can be considered similar to murder thus anyone who commits abortion can be said to have committed murder. Those who support the legality of abortion are on the fact that a woman has the right to make decisions about her body.
A survey carried out in Yaoundé in 1997, found out that 20% of women aged 20-29 had at least carried out the act of abortion once. 80% of this abortion took place with medical facilities but was still not safe as most of them ended up with complications. This same survey found that 35% of all reported pregnancies in the capital city ended in abortion.
In 1990, the Cameroon Government passed act No. 90/035; this act was out to prohibit the education on birth control. As a result the report found out that many had secretly carried out abortion. Access to abortion clinic was limited to urban centers within the country. This caused people to carry out abortion illegally.
1.2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is true that there are laws put in place to fight against abortion. Though with the laws, abortion is an act which is widely carried out in the world and Cameroon not being an exception as the act of abortion is also a widely carried out activity in Cameroon. The lack of an effective enforcement of abortions laws has made the laws so relaxed to the extent that there have been taken for granted.
Also, section 339(1 & 2) of the Cameroon Penal Code(PC) states exceptions upon which the act of abortion is legally permissible, in stating this, it also states that legally permissible abortion shall be carried out by a qualified medical practitioner. This is not always the case as people who allow unqualified persons to carry out the act of abortion which in some cases end up leading to loss of lives.
1.3. RESEARCH QUESTION
This research seeks to answer the following questions;
- What is abortion all about?
- What can be some of the causes and consequences of abortion?
- What is the take of the Cameroon Legal System in respect to the issue of abortion?
- What legal framework has been put in place in respect to the issue of abortion?
- What are the exceptions by which the law will condor with the act of abortion?
- How effective is the legal framework concerning the prohibition of abortion?
- What are the views of Human Rights Institutes in relation to Abortion?
- What policy recommendations can be made to address the issue of abortion in Cameroon?