Social workers and community members have questioned the minister of gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare’s stance on abortion rights in Namibia.
Minister Doreen Sioka made it clear she is opposed to the legalisation of abortion when she said last week: “I don’t encourage people to be aborting [… ] I am a Christian.”
The Namibian told Sioka a number of pro-abortion activists had been calling for the legalisation of abortion on social media in the past few weeks.
One activist, Beauty Boois, called on Namibians to support a petition to legalise abortion in the country. The petition calls for counselling and support structures to provide women with the necessary guidance and support to make well-informed decisions.
Former health minister Richard Kamwi told New Era last week he firmly believes women should be given the right to abort.
Despite the legalisation of abortion extensively debated in public, Sioka is still of the view it has not been discussed enough.
“People must keep talking about it,” Sioka said.
The minister believes as long as there are orphanages and children’s homes, abortion should not be legalised.
“Carry the baby and give it to us [gender ministry],” she said.
Sioka was criticised on social media for being subjective.
Members of the public also noted issues faced by underresourced orphanages and children’s homes.
“If they [gender ministry] can’t afford to support kids, what’s the use for women to have children and give them up for adoption?” Samuel Kapepo, who runs a soup kitchen for children in Windhoek’s Ombili settlement, said.
“People and children are still living on the streets like wild animals,” he said.
Kapepo said the ministry is not doing enough to ensure orphanages are well-financed.
Chantal Kangootui, a social worker in the Erongo region, said they are faced with women and girls who want to abort their unborn babies on a daily basis.
“I always revert to the fact that it is illegal in Namibia and the health risk to the mother if she tries to abort illegally. It often leads to a client getting lost in the system or never returning for a follow-up, because they go ahead [and abort] anyway,” Kangootui said.
Apart from orphanages, she said Namibia barely has shelters to accommodate the victims of abuse.
She said there is not enough human capacity to take care of or maintain the shelters Namibia already has.
“Children are having sex. That’s a fact. How are we helping by having a 13- or 14-year-old from a broken home with minimal access to basic neccessities bring an unplanned baby into this world?” she asked.
Kangootui said people preach safe sex and family planning for older women, while local clinics do not always have sufficient contraceptives or condoms.
A social worker in the Omusati region, Tulimegameno Shiiga, said there are no places specifically meant for unwanted babies in the region.
“In the Omusati region there’s only one shelter which accommodates gender-based violence victims in very serious cases for a number of days. But the shelter doesn’t have food,” she said.
“I believe it’s about time Namibia legalises abortion, because as a social worker I constantly worry about clients who are pregnant and have thoughts of killing themselves or the baby,” she said.
Shiiga said most women and girls with unwanted pregnancies feel conflicted every day and a number of them try to perform unsafe abortions themselves.