Abortion in the Kenyan Constitution, pirates set adrift, and other African news

Posted by Sappho on May 21st, 2010 filed in Africa news and blogwatch, Darfur/Chad/Central African Republic

In Kenya, debate on the new proposed constitution fires up on the issue of abortion. Here’s Ms. Magazine’s take:

Wonder what happens when abortion is illegal? Then take a look at Kenya. Every year, more than 2,600 women there die from complications of unsafe abortion, accounting for 35 percent of the country’s maternal deaths. Close to 30 percent of the Kenyan women hospitalized with abortion complications suffer highly severe problems, including uterine perforation, hemorrhage, sepsis, pelvic abscess and shock.

But now, ignoring the devastating consequences of illegal abortion, Kenya’s parliament has proposed a new constitution which states that “the life of a person begins at conception.” This is the definition that anti-choice advocates in the United States lobby for, because it confers personhood rights on a fetus, thus making abortion murder.

Kenyan lawmakers have provided a loophole, though: The draft constitution also states that an abortion can be performed if a trained health professional determines that the life or health of the mother is in danger….

The Christian Science Monitor describes the opposition:

Kenya’s draft Constitution actually forbids abortion, “unless in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger….” …

Two years after mob violence killed nearly 1,300 Kenyans and forced 300,000 others from their homes – in the wake of an election that appeared to be deeply flawed and manipulated by Kenyan politicians who had extraordinary powers over the judiciary and the supposedly independent electoral commission – many Kenyans say that passing a new constitution is necessary for the country’s very survival.

A recent survey found that an overwhelming majority of Kenyans, more than 60 percent, approve of the new Constitution, which many Kenyans have read because of freely available printed copies paid for by funds given by the US Agency for International Development.

Yet Kenya’s powerful churches are putting on the brakes. And the draft Constitution’s provision for abortion is just one of many of their concerns….

Opalo’s blog on the proposed Kenyan constitution.

fungai neni on the abortion debate in Africa (via Global Voices).

Anne Applebaum, at Slate, writes of the practice of Somali pirates being released rather than brought to trial.

… As for the Russian destroyer, it was not operating according to an 18th-century code of honor but according to international law, such as it is. Theoretically, the captain was supposed to hand the detainees and the evidence over to regional police. Not wanting to involve himself in legal wrangling, however, he decided to “release” the pirates instead. And thus they were “set free” in a tiny inflatable raft, with no navigation equipment, 350 miles off the coast of Yemen. The raft has since disappeared. In the 21st century, this is how pirates walk the plank.

In fact, the Russian destroyer wasn’t the first to hit upon this solution. Asked last weekend, the commander of the European naval force that coordinates military operations off the Somali coast said there had been “similar instances” involving Dutch and Danish ships, but he declined to elaborate. He also noted that of 400 pirates captured in the last three months, only 40 have been prosecuted. The rest have been released. Or “released.”

Why? Pirates are hard to convict, because it is hard to collect evidence at sea, because ship captains have other priorities, and because the nearest working courts, in Kenya and the Seychelles, are overwhelmed by pirate cases….

The UN Security Council voted last week to extend the mission of its MINURCAT peacekeeper force in Chad for two weeks, as discussion of troop cuts continues.

Economic issues that will have to be resolved, should South Sudan vote for independence in 2011.

Foreign governments protest as Malawi gay couple gets 14 years in prison.

Doctors Without Borders has a new aid worker blog, by Jess Cosby, a nurse working in Zimbabwe.

Tomorrow I’ll have an African ingenuity blogwatch for you, and also a post on our local Orange County, California Meeting of the Minds conference (sponsored by the Mental Health Association here).

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