An activist and abortion rights advocate Chantal Umuhoza in Rwanda has welcomed President Paul Kagame’s move to forgive more than 360 women and girls convicted in abortion-related cases over the years.
“Pursuant to the powers conferred upon him by the laws…the President of the Republic informed the cabinet meeting that he has exercised his prerogative of mercy and pardoned 367 persons convicted for the offences of abortion, complicity in abortion and infanticide,” a post cabinet meeting statement said.
“I was really happy because this is the second time that our president pardons women and girls who are convicted of abortion,” Ms Umuhoza said.
The president’s decision covers cases of women who were jailed for carrying out either abortions, infanticide or were accomplices in such cases.
The announcement was made after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Rwanda’s current law, which was adopted in 2012, is among the strictest in the world. In Rwanda, abortion is a criminal and punishable offense, except when it is the result of rape, incest or forced marriage, or when a pregnancy poses a danger to the life of the child or mother.
Those charged with helping a woman commit an illegal abortion could face a jail term of more than six years – up from a current maximum of five years – and a fine of between $350 and $ 600.
If a woman decides her only option is to self-induce an abortion, the penalties remain as unforgiving as they are now: She could be forced to pay a fine of up to $250 and end up in prison for one to three years.
Rwanda’s current penal code says the final decision over whether a woman can have an abortion lies with courts. Often women have to wait weeks or months for a ruling.