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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Policies in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Togo and Uganda
ISSUE 77 - 17 January 2008
This issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update chronicles important laws and policies relating to HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, abortion and the rights of women in the workplace that were adopted in Africa in the second half of 2006 and early 2007.
Djibouti Enacts Law on HIV/AIDS
On 22 April 2007, Djibouti enacted Law No. 174/An/07/5, which sets forth measures to protect persons with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable groups affected by the virus. The law states that the principal objective of all AIDS programmes in the country is prevention. To that end, the law requires that the population be informed and educated on the disease, on the modes of transmission, and on the means of protection. The law stipulates that: a) preventive actions, testing, diagnosis, and treatment of AIDS and sexually transmitted infections should be free and anonymous; b) persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families have the same rights as other citizens to non-discrimination and legal equality; c) all sick persons and persons belonging to vulnerable groups have a right to obtain assistance and the necessary means to lead a life with human dignity; d) public officials must provide social and legal help for persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families; e) HIV testing may not be carried out without informed consent and counselling before and after testing; f) revealing the identity of HIV-positive persons is a violation of privacy; g) only health professionals and blood, sperm, and tissue donors can be required to undergo HIV testing; h) all forms of discrimination against HIV-positive persons and persons presumed to be HIV-positive in employment are prohibited; i) all persons suffering from HIV/AIDS have a right to care to reduce physical and mental pain and to protect their human dignity; and j) no medical act may be carried out without the informed consent of a patient or, in the case of minors, their legal representative. The law also makes it a crime to: a) discriminate against or stigmatize HIV-positive persons or persons presumed to be HIV-positive; b) intentionally transmit or expose another person to sexually transmitted infections; and c) intentionally use contaminated blood.
Eritrea Adopts Proclamation Banning "Female Circumcision"
In March 2007, the Government of Eritrea issued the Female Circumcision Abolition Proclamation No. 158/2007. The proclamation notes that "female circumcision" (FC) seriously endangers women's health and deprives them of their physical and mental integrity, their right to freedom from violence and discrimination, and in extreme cases, their right to life. After outlining the many severe health complications that can result from FC, the declaration states that "the Eritrean Government has decided to abolish this harmful procedure which violates women's rights."
The proclamation provides a detailed definition of FC that encompasses all forms of the practice, including "symbolic practices that involve the nicking and pricking of the clitoris to release drops of blood." Criminal penalties for FC include prison sentences and fines for anyone who performs FC, with elevated penalties when the practice results in death or the practitioner is a member of the medical professions. Indicted medical practitioners may also be suspended from practicing their professions for a maximum of two years. The proclamation also imposes jail sentences and fines for requesting, inciting or promoting FC. Finally, fines are imposed on individuals who fail to notify authorities about FCs that are about to take place or that have already taken place.
Ethiopian Health Ministry Adopts Technical and Procedural Guidelines for Safe Abortion Services
In June 2006, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health released the Technical and Procedural Guidelines for Safe Abortion Services in Ethiopia. The guidelines were adopted to implement the recently revised penal code, which provides that abortion is not punishable when performed to save a woman's life or health; in cases of rape, incest and serious fetal impairment; and when a pregnant woman lacks the capacity ? because of her physical or mental health or her young age ? to care for a child. According to the guidelines, underlying the government's commitment to improving abortion care are the high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in Ethiopia, the country's duties under international human rights treaties and consensus documents, and the mandates of Ethiopia's own constitution and national policies.
The guidelines focus on two types of care related to pregnancy termination: a) woman-centered abortion care and b) post-abortion care. Woman-centered abortion care is defined as "a comprehensive approach to providing abortion services that takes into account the various factors that influence a woman's individual mental and physical health needs, her personal circumstances, and her ability to access services." According to the guidelines, this care includes services "that support women in exercising their sexual and reproductive rights." Post-abortion care is a set of comprehensive services for women who come to health-care facilities after a spontaneous abortion or an attempted pregnancy termination.
The guidelines provide an official interpretation of the legal framework for abortion, noting for example, that:
- abortions should be provided within three days of a woman's request;
- a woman seeking an abortion on grounds of rape or incest is not required to submit evidence of the criminal act or identify the offender; and
- a woman who seeks an abortion on the grounds that she is a minor and unable to care for a child is not required to present proof of age.
The guidelines' provisions on procedural care address counselling and informed decision-making and set out procedures for medical abortion, as well as for surgical methods. In addition, the guidelines explicitly allow midlevel providers, such as nurses and midwives, to provide abortion care.
Togo Enacts Labour Law Designed to Protect Women
On 5 December 2006, Togo enacted a new Labour Code that contains a number of provisions designed to protect women. It prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ethnicity, legal status, national origin, state of health or disability, and prohibits dismissal for the same reasons. It also prohibits harassment and requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work of equal value regardless of sex, nationality, age or status. The code contains provisions which provide women with 14 weeks' maternity leave at full pay and with one hour a day to nurse their children for 15 months. The code also protects minors from being subject to slavery, trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, prostitution, and use in pornography.
Uganda Approves New Employment Act which Protects the Rights of Women
On 24 May 2006, Uganda approved a new Employment Act which governs labour relations in the country. The act contains a number of provisions designed to protect female employees. It also contains provisions which: a) prohibit discrimination based on sex; b) require employers to provide equal pay for work of equal value; c) allow employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment to file complaints and require employers to adopt measures to prevent sexual harassment; d) give pregnant women 60 days' paid maternity leave and the right to return to the same or a reasonably suitable job after maternity leave; and e) prohibit dismissal on the ground of pregnancy or any reason connected with pregnancy. The act prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, and HIV status or disability.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at: http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters.htm .
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as the secretariat for the biennial International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD). The first IPCI/ICPD was held in November 2002 in Ottawa, Canada, the second in October 2004 in Strasbourg, France and the third in November 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
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