Media Advisory: Zimbabwe Supreme Court to Rule on Access to Lawful Termination of Pregnancy

Salc : Staff Writer

Harare, 24 March – On Tuesday 25th March, the Zimbabwe Supreme Court will deliver its judgment in a landmark sexual and reproductive rights case brought by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA).

The ZWLA argued that the government should pay maintenance for a child who was born because the authorities failed to provide the mother – a rape survivor – with access to lawful abortion services, which she had requested.

“This case highlights the state’s failure to protect women’s human rights and the dismissive way that State officials treat rape survivors,” said Abigail Matsvai, Programmes Director of ZWLA. “In this case, the State failed to provide a rape survivor with legally available health services in a timely manner, violating her rights and resulting in further emotional damage.”

“Tomorrow’s decision is critical in determining whether the courts in Zimbabwe will hold the government to account over its failure to provide rape survivors with timely access to legally-provided health services,” said Nyasha Chingore, a Project Lawyer with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which has supported the case. “If the Supreme Court rules against the government it will also send a signal that the authorities cannot continue to violate women’s sexual and reproductive rights with impunity.”

What – The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe will deliver judgment in Mapingure v State.

Where – Supreme Court, Harare, Zimbabwe

When – 09:30, Tuesday 25 March 2014

Mapingure was raped in 2006. She sought emergency contraception within 72 hours of her rape to ensure that the rape did not result in a pregnancy. Despite emergency contraceptives being legal in Zimbabwe, Mapingure failed to access emergency contraception on time due to delays at the police station and their failure to provide proper information about how to access it.

Upon discovering she was pregnant, she sought a lawful termination; as a victim of rape she is eligible for an abortion under Zimbabwe’s Termination of Pregnancy Act. Due to unnecessary judicial delays, she was unable to obtain the court order allowing the termination in time and eventually gave birth. She sued the government in 2007, seeking maintenance for her baby from the state.

The government failed to respond to her lawsuit. Nonetheless, in December 2012, the High Court handed down judgment in favour of the state.

Further info:  

Abigail Matsvai, ZWLA Programmes Director: +263 4 706 676/ 706 820; Cell +263 772 381 495; amatsvai@zwla.co.zw or zwla@zwla.co.zw

Priti Patel, SALC Deputy Director: +27 11 587 5065, Cell +27 76 808 0505; PritiP@salc.org.za

Nyasha Chingore, SALC Project Lawyer: + 27 11 587 5065, Cell +27 72 563 5855; NyashaC@salc.org.za

For live updates from the court: @Follow_SALC and @ Follow_ ZimWomenLawyers

For background on the case, click here.