Reproductive Health and Rights Challenges in Nigeria
The law in Nigeria only allows abortion in the case of a woman’s life being in danger. Studies in Nigeria have shown that this restrictive law actually increases rates of abortion rather than lowering them. Hauwa Shekarau, country director with Ipas Nigeria, talks to us about the current and major task of working to reduce maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions, reduce complications from unsafe abortions, and enable women to have access to quality reproductive healthcare in Nigeria.
Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world due to unsafe abortions. Gender-based violence and sexual violence occurs in high rates in Nigeria as well, which can often lead to unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. Studies have shown that women with unwanted pregnancies go to extreme extents to end that pregnancy, regardless of the law or safety concerns.
Providing women with access to contraceptives can reduce these unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and deaths. Rates of contraceptive use can vary across Nigeria, but in some rural parts of the country, contraceptive use rates can be as low as 6%. Women in Nigeria don’t use contraceptives for a variety of reasons, including lack of access, the perpetuation of myths and stigma, cultural norms, and male judgement and disapproval.
Because of cultural norms and values, sex education in Nigerian schools is frowned upon. This leaves young Nigerians on their own in terms of learning about anatomy, healthy relationships, consent, sexual and gender identity, and more. Conflict also impacts sexual and reproductive healthcare throughout Nigeria. The Boko Haram insurgency exacerbates gender-based and sexual violence as well as the inability to access SRHR services.
The U.S.’ global gag rule is severely harming Nigerian women. Since the U.S. is now restricting one of the largest channels of funding for sexual and reproductive health that Nigeria has access to, it is majorly affecting women’s ability to access safe and quality abortion care. The expanded global gag rule is very far reaching, and impacts other health programming for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. This means fewer organizations are now participating in advocacy and abortion care.
With low rates of contraception use and high rates of unsafe abortion, gender-based violence, poverty, conflict, and maternal deaths, Ipas is working to ameliorate some of these sexual and reproductive health shortcomings.
Links from this episode