Proposed Rwandan law would legalize abortion, make conscientious
Law Governing Reproductive Health
After its approval by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs,
Rwandan Member of Parliament Ignatienne Nyirarukundo has brought a proposed
Rwandan reproductive health law before the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies for consideration.1 The
bill is reported to have been initiated five years ago, and is apparently an
improved version of a bill that was criticized for violating human rights,
contradicting the Rwandan Constitution, and for being so badly translated
that its provisions were sometimes given different meanings in different
languages. That bill was rejected by the Rwandan senate.2
Nonetheless, the English text of the present bill3
continues to suffer from defects like incoherence and inconsistency that may
be the product of poor translation. In addition, it include
provisions that are likely to be controversial for various reasons.
- it appears to require physicians doing AIDS/HIV tests to
violate the principle of informed consent and patient confidentiality
- it describes offences, like rape, that one would normally expect to
find in criminal law, and which may already be covered by Rwandan
criminal law (Article 4);
- it requires spouses to practise "family planning," though it does
not impose the obligation on unmarried couples; (Article 12)
- it legalizes abortions that are approved by three physicians
Commenting on the requirement to practise family planning, MP Juliana
Kantengwa complained that the bill did not specify the number of children
people should be permitted to have, and that it did not include punitive
sanctions to ensure enforcement.4
Her criticism illustrates the potentially oppressive power of such
With respect to freedom of conscience, that oppressive power is
manifestly clear. Article 4(12) makes it an offence for a health care
worker to refuse to provide any form of "reproductive health
care" (i.e., contraception, sterilization and abortion), while Article 17
demands that "all" health care workers are obliged to provide these services
faster and more effectively. The bill requires the government to
establish 'reproductive health units' in every hospital, no exceptions being
made for private or denominational institutions (Article 18).
A particularly draconian feature of the bill is Article 4(14), which
would prohibit any expression of opposition to the bill or to anything it
advocates. This is remarkably similar in intent to a section of the
Health Act of 2011, which would have made it illegal for anyone
"who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions"
of the law. The section was ultimately deleted.
The English text of the Rwandan bill follows in
Appendix "A," with a link to the original document that includes French
and Kinyarwanda translations. Some of the significant parts of the
bill are highlighted in red. Mouseover the red text to see Project
comments in the right column of the page.
1. Musoni, Edwin, "Reproductive Health Bill in Crucial Stage of Parliament's Scrutiny."
The New Times (Rwanda) 10 July, 2013. (Accessed 2013-07-11)
2. Rwanda Focus, "Lawmakers make a mess of reproductive health bill." 23 June, 2009.
Reproductive Health Bill. The document on the Rwandan
parliament's website, the English text is reproduced below, is dated
October, 2011. (Accessed 2013-07-11)
4. Musoni, Edwin, "Reproductive Health Bill in Crucial Stage of Parliament's Scrutiny."
The New Times (Rwanda) 10 July, 2013. (Accessed 2013-07-11)
in Kinyarwanda, English and French. Mouseover red text for Project
CHAPTER I: GENERAL PROVISIONS
Article one: The scope of application
This law governs reproductive health.
Article 2: Definitions
1Â° reproductive health shall mean a state of physical, mental and social
well-being in all matters relating to reproductive system at all stages of
life without being limited to reproductive health related diseases and
disability. Reproductive health implies that people are able to have a
satisfying and safe sex life and that the capacity to reproduce and the
freedom to decide when, and how often to do so. Reproductive health also
means sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and
personal relations, and not merely counseling and care related to
reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases;
Report of the International Conference on Population and Development
(Cairo, 5-13 September, 1994) A/CONF.171/13 (Accessed 2013-07-25)
Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and
social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or
infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to
its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore
implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life
and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to
decide if, when and how often to do so. . . It also includes
sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and
personal relations, and not merely counselling and care related to
reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases. [Provided by the
Protection of Conscience Project]
2Â° reproductive health services shall mean facilities including
health facilities, different centers with staff, equipment and drugs and
other facilities necessary to solve and prevent all issues related to
3Â° family planning or birth spacing shall mean the ability of individuals
and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and
the spacing and the timing of their births by taking into account the child,
mother and family's welfare;
4Â° child shall mean any person aged below eighteen (18)
5Â° adolescent boy shall mean any boy aged between
thirteen (13) and twenty (20)
6Â° adolescent girl shall mean any boy [sic] aged between
thirteen (13) and twenty (20)
Article 3: Components of reproductive health
Reproductive health shall include the following:
1Â°Safe reproduction, be it from the mother's point of view or from the
child's point of view;
2Â° Care for the new born baby;
3Â° family planning and births spacing;
4Â°prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections including
5Â°ensuring adolescents' reproductive health;
6Â°prevention of gender-based violence and provision of care for its
7Â°changing behavour and attitudes so as to provide the woman with the
capicity of participating in reproductive health related decisions making
Article 4: Restrictions in terms of reproductive health
, the following reproductive health
related acts shall be prohibited:
1Â° forcibly subject a person to sexual intercourse;
2Â° Forcing a person to get married with someone he or she does not want
to or forcing a person not to marry or get married with someone she wants
3Â° exercing stigma against an HIV positive or a person suffering from
AIDS, AIDS orphans or those affected by other epidemics;
4Â° having any person induldge [sic] in prostitution;
5Â° Sexual torture
6Â° entertaining sexual intercourse with any person who can not afford
taking a decision for that matter;
7Â° exercising pressure or stigma against a mother of illegitimate child;
8Â° exercising pressure or stigma against a mother of male or female
children only, a mother of a handicaped child or any married person
suffering from infertility;
9Â° exercising pressure or stigma against a child born out of the
circumstances provided for in points 7 and 8 of this article;
10Â° exercising pressure, violence against a your spouse;
11Â° Forcing ones'spouse to have children against his or her will, or
where, for health or family planning reasons he or she does not want to;
13Â° marriages between relatives to less than the 7th degree;
CHAPTER II: INDIVIDUALS RIGHTS IN TERMS OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
Article 5: the right to reproductive health
shall fully enjoy the right on reproductive health issues.
Article 6: The right to decide on reproductive health issues
[sic] shall fully enjoy
the right to decide
on reproductive health issues.
Article 7: The right to be provided with reproductive health education
Every person shall have the right to be provided with education on
reproductive health in general and on family methods in particular.
shall have the to enjoy access to
Article 8: The spouses' right to decide on the number of children to
give birth to or the right to refrain from reproducing
Spouses shall have full right to decide on the number of children to give
birth to taking into
account the children's, the mother's and the family's welfare. They shall
also have the
right to refrain from reproducing up mutual consent and to enjoy counselling
types of assistance dedicated to that matter.
Article 9: Pregnant woman's, child's and husband's right to care
Any pregnant woman and her husband or any mother and her new born baby
shall have the
right to be protected as provided for by the law.
Article 10: The right to be provided with drugs and health care services
meant for keeping them healthy
Every person shall have the right to be provided with drugs and health
care services meant for keeping them healthy.They also have the right to be
protected from any act as long as it can jeopardize reproductive health.
Article 11: The right for infertile woman, the one who stopped giving
birth or who has reached menopose [siic]
Infertile woman, the one who stopped giving birth or who has reached
have the right to be provided with reproductive health services.
Article 12: The spouse's obligation to use family planning methods
their family's welfare.
Article13: HIV/AIDS test
Everybody shall have the obligation to protect him/herself against
HIV/AIDS, voluntary test, and to protect his/her sex parterner.
Article 14: HIV/AIDS testing HIV/AIDS test is subject to testee's
Where a medical doctor finds it necessary to find AIDS status in a child
or any other person, he or she However, upon requested by the authorized institutions, it should be in
Article 15: Refraining from any threat to reproduction ability and from
sexually transmitted infections
Every person shall have the obligation to refrain from to
their own or family's reproduction ability, especially from sexually
Article 16: The parent's obligation ensure the education of their
Every parent or guardian shall ensure good health and education for their
children or those under their guardianship. Every parent or guardian shall
talk to their children or those
under their trustship about sex and reproductive health
Article 17: Reproductive health service providers' obligations
CHAPTER III: GOVERNMENT OBLIGATIONS IN TERMS OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
Article 18: The Government's primary obligation
The Government shall have the following:
1 Âº Establish a well-equiped specific unit with means
meant for providing sevirces to the population on reproductive health.
2 Âº sensitizing spouses on the common understanding about family
3 Âº Sensitizing and assisting pregnant women on delivering at health
center and their role in deciding on reproductive health;
4 Âº Helping the destitute person access reproductive health and family
5 Âº Providing with assistance to mentally handicapped people who can not
decide on their reproductive health and family planning;
6 Âº Training on a regular basis those involved in health workers on
reproductive health and more specifically on family planning methods;
7 Âº Training and consulting on a regular basis faith-based
organisatuions' [sic] leaders in reproductive health related matters.
Providing Non Governmental Organizations with reproductive health related
8 Âº Training on a regular basis health workers and local government
authorities on reproductive health related issues so that they can transfer
the knowledge to the population;
9 Âº Doing any other thing that promotes reproduction health. An order of
the Minister in charge of health governs how what is stipulated in this
Article 19: Integration of issues of reproductive health into teaching
Teaching programmes and curricula at all levels of education shall integrate issues of reproductive health.
An order of the Minister in charge of education shall specify
implementing modalities for this article.
Article 20: The obligation of Public service organs
Public service organs shall devise strategies meant for ensuring their
staff enjoy safe reproductive health.
Article 21: Exemption for Drugs and equipment meant for family planning
Drugs and equipment meant for family planning shall be exempted from
Article 22: Services provides by public health facilities
As far as reproductive health, public health facilities shall ensure a
quick reception and treatment for free for a victim of gender based
violence. Where this is carried out for the
purpose of collecting evidence, such services shall also be provided to the
suspect for free.
Any victim of raped who has been contaminated HIV/AIDS and other sexually
transmitted infections or had other sexual violence related consequences
shall be provided with medical treatment. Public health facilities has
the obligation of providing a free family planning
Order of the Minister of Health determines how a free family planning
services shall be provided by public and semi-public health.
Article 23: Reasons legitimating voluntary abortion
Voluntary abortion as one of contraceptive methods shall be prohibited.
However, this type of
An order of the Minister in charge of health shall specify implementing
CHAPTER V: MISCELLANEOUS AND FINAL PROVISIONS
Article 24: Abrogation of inconsistent legal provisions
All previous legal provisions contrary to this law are hereby abrogated.
Article 25: Preparation, review and voting of this law
This law has been prepared in English, reviewed and voted in Kinyarwanda
Article 26: Entry into force
This law comes into force on the date of its publication in the Official
Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.