On 23 and 24 January 2020, the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, convened a colloquium on developing responses to the persistence of unsafe abortion in the African region. The colloquium was convened by the Centre’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (SRRA) programme. The focus of the colloquium was two-fold: critically exploring laws, policies and practices that serve as barriers to access to safe abortion in the African region; and suggesting reforms to overcome the barriers in ways that respect, protect, promote and fulfil women’s human rights.
Delegates at the colloquium were from far and wide including United States of America, Canada, Netherlands, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. They participated in person or via Skype, making the colloquium an international forum. The colloquium proceedings took the form of presentations of written papers by the authors which were followed by expert review directed at each paper and plenary discussions. In all, eleven papers were presented and critiqued.
The papers addressed a wide range of barriers to safe abortion and suggested possible solutions from a variety of perspectives. The main suggestions were in the areas of: information technology; feminist gender equality approaches; judicial interpretation; revision of restrictive laws and regulations, including medicine licensing laws and regulations; fertility autonomy for sex-workers; and peace and security in conflict and post-conflict situations.
The convenors and participants agreed to share the outcome of the colloquium proceedings through aiming to publish reworked papers in an edited book. It was highlighted that contributions should seek to maximally incorporate a human rights approach.