MSI Senegal supports medical abortion task force in TV abortion debate

Thanks to the technical and financial support of MSI Senegal, the task force took part in a debate on the WAREF programme on one of Senegal’s most popular television channels, TFM.

​The task force for medical abortion is a committee of around twenty organisations that has been fighting for access to abortion in Senegal since 2013. Their advocacy in Senegal is to authorise abortion in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s health is in danger.

The task force was represented by Madjiguéne Sarr, Head of Communications at the Association des Juristes (AJS) Sénégalais, and Imam Chérif Adramé Diop, a member of the Islam and Population Network.

The debate, broadcast on TFM and YouTube with over 6,000 views in half a day, aimed to counter the growing influence of anti-choice groups in Senegal. The opposition’s main argument is that abortion is religiously prohibited, which prompted the task force to invite an Imam to shed light on different schools of thought in Islam. He explained that, though abortion is viewed as forbidden by most Malikite Muslims, some Hanafites view abortion as permissible within 120 days of conception.

The debate also explored the view that abortion is religiously permissible in cases of rape and incest, due to the danger posed to the pregnant women or girl.

The AJS shared the high number of women imprisoned in Senegal for abortion and infanticide; according to a PP Global 2023 study, 60% of women in Dakar’s female prison are incarcerated on abortion or infanticide related charges. The need for Senegal to honour the commitments it made when it signed the Maputo Protocol was underlined.

Before the debate aired, an advert was played after the 8pm news, the timeslot with the highest viewing figures. In order to reach a wide audience, the programme was also broadcast in Wolof, a language understood by 90% of the Senegalese population.

In the context of the forthcoming presidential elections and the growing power of anti-choice networks, the debate represents a major step forward in advocating access to safe abortion in one of the most restrictive countries in the MSI partnership.

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