THE PROSECUTION OF THE CRIME OF ABORTION IN CAMEROON
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This project is concerned with abortion as a criminal offence in Cameroon. Abortion is prohibited in many countries including Cameroon. The prohibition of abortion differs in various criminal systems. For instance the prohibition of abortion enshrined in the domestic laws of England differs from that of France. The legal framework for the prohibition of abortion in Cameroon is the Cameroon Penal Code. This code defines offences in Cameroon and provides punishment of these offences. The prohibition of abortion in this code is found in section 337. This research discusses the elements of abortion which are: the actus reus and the mens rea. A person can be found guilty for the commission of abortion provided these two elements are satisfied. This research adopts the doctrinal research method which is appropriate in law involving content analysis of primary and secondary sources. As such it is qualitative. The prosecution of abortion in Cameroon as well as other legal systems is subject to certain conditions or better still exceptions. These exceptions are discussed in the research as the defences to abortion. Generally legal system permits an abortion to be legally performed to save the life of the woman. This is the situation in South Africa, Nigeria and England. This exception is also enshrined in the Cameroon Penal Code. In Cameroon, the defense to abortion is provided for in section 339 of the Cameroon Penal Code. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Maputo Protocol Right of Women) has occasioned controversy pertaining to the legalization of abortion. Many argue that this protocol legalizes abortion in Cameroon. There is no doubt that treaties ratified by Cameroon takes precedence over other laws in the land but the argument that the Maputo Protocol legalizes abortion is erroneous. It is averred in this research that the Protocol only reiterates the defences to abortion covered in the Cameroon Penal Code.
Over the past several decades activists and political leaders have engaged in a prolonged debate over the implications of abortion restrictions for women, society and the global community. Although proponents of such policies argue that they play an important role in protecting women and their ‘unborn children,’ opponents posit a different narrative. Basing their argument in large part upon a pair of nonacademic but nevertheless influential reports published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), they maintain that restrictive policies make abortion more dangerous but not any less common.
Within the public domain, then, there are at least two competing viewpoints about the effectiveness of abortion restrictions: one perspective suggesting that they work and a second indicating that they do not. Among Americanist scholars attempting to explain geographical variations in the abortion rate across the United States, however, a very different discussion has begun to take place. Within this literature the dialogue has shifted away from whether legal restrictions reduce the abortion rate to how they manage to do so.
Some scholars postulate that they act on the probability that existing pregnancies will end in birth by affecting the demand for or the availability of abortion services. More recently, however, literature has begun to suggest that they reduce the affordability of abortion as an ‘insurance policy’ and thereby incentivize women and their partners to take extra precautions in order to avoid an unplanned pregnancy in the first place. Modeling abortion and other fertility decisions as normal economic choices, all of these studies suggest that legal restrictions mitigate incidences of abortion by increasing the cost of termination relative to other forms of family planning or to unwanted childbearing.Yet, as abortion proponents correctly observe, the expectations of this economic model of fertility control are not substantiated by data collected at the international level.
Criminal laws penalizing and restricting women’s access to reproductive health services, including abortion, have been gradually gaining international attention as responsible for poor health outcomes for women, often resultant in maternal mortality. However, the illegality of abortion does not stop the practice or the need for abortion, it only drives it underground. In fact, the highest rates of abortion in the world are in countries where abortion is illegal. Therefore, laws criminalizing abortion perpetuate unsafe conditions for women by pushing abortion underground, but do not eliminate abortions. When abortions are pushed underground, it puts women’s health at risk and criminalizes women for the act of terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
Main Research Question
How is abortion dealt with as a criminal offence in Cameroon?
Specific Research Questions
What arguments have been put forward for and against the prosecution of abortion?
Are there elements of the offence of abortion in Cameroon?
What are the penalties of the crime of abortion in Cameroon?
What policy recommendations can be made to redress the problems raised?
The general objective of this research is to examine how abortion is dealt with as a criminal offence in Cameroon.
Specifically, this research seeks to:
- Present the arguments put forward for and against the prosecution of abortion?
- Examine the elements of the offence of abortion in Cameroon?
- Discuss the penalties of the crime of abortion in Cameroon?
- Make policy recommendations to redress the problems raised?
FURTHER READING: PROJECT TOPICS WITH MATERIALS IN LAW