Rwanda to release 50 women jailed for having abortions

Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) leaders from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania pose for a portrait after the second regional MSFC conference. Medical students and practitioners from ten African countries gathered at the convening, where they learned best practices around contraceptive use and safe abortion.

Rwanda is to release 50 women who were jailed for having abortions after a personal pardon was issued by the country’s president, Paul Kagame.

Human rights activists welcomed the pending release of the women, six of whom had been given life sentences – the highest penalty available to the courts – two serving 25 years and the others terms ranging from 12 months to 20 years.

“It is a positive step,” said Tom Mulisa, executive director for the Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD).

Dr Agnes Odhiambo of Human Rights Watch in Kenya, said they should never have been jailed. “While this is a good move, women and girls should never, in the first place, be imprisoned for exercising their reproductive rights. The government of Rwanda should remove punitive measures for women who undergo abortions.”