Abortion is Foreign to African Culture
(LifeSiteNews.com) – So-called progressive organizations are attempting to paint a false picture of abortion in Africa.
In a recent report written by Kapya John Kaoma for the “progressive” group Political Research Associates, the author personally attacks myself and the organization I represent, Human Life International (HLI), claiming we are using Christianity to “destroy innocent lives” and “colonize” African culture through our work to protect the sanctity of life and the sanctity of the family.
In the author’s warped view of Christianity and of African culture, we are led to believe that Africans have traditionally embraced abortion, and that those who rely on Christian teaching to show the immorality of abortion are attempting to subdue traditional values in Africa. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The report claims that in Africa “abortion is widely accepted as a personal matter, even when viewed as morally wrong.” HLI is attacked for exposing an illegal abortion in Uganda because it is supposedly a “stark deviation from African culture” to make such things public. The author even charges HLI with making the apparently ridiculous claim that “birth control is a Western import,” and attacks our work against contraception when it is widely known that tens of millions of dollars’ worth of contraceptives are literally imported annually from Western nations. Western governments and NGOs boast of this fact in their annual reports and web sites. Why Mr. Kaoma would deny this is a question worth asking.
I think that most people realize that using the privacy of a matter to defend its morality is a questionable tactic. Female circumcision also happens in private and is widely practiced in some African nations. Is Mr. Kaoma suggesting that there should therefore be no laws against this cruel practice? Should this also be considered a “personal matter,” and thus be left unprosecuted by authorities?
In African communities, the death of a child is no small matter. We have never “accepted” abortion in African culture. Expanded legalization of abortion is being forced upon us by the traditional colonizing powers of the West, who are using their money and power to “destroy innocent lives.” Pro-life Christians are working, with limited sums, to protect our culture.
Growing up in a remote area of Tanzania, I attended my primary education in a rural setting. I never even left my village until I went to university, where I specialized in languages and African literature. Together with my studies in sociology, my perspective broadened greatly as I learned about African cultures through various literary works, and as I learned how the culture of people is embodied in its language. While investigating whether or not any African language has any word or phrase that would correspond to the English word “abortion,” I have yet to find a single example. You would think something so “widely accepted” in our culture would be named.
I speak two local languages, Kinyanja and Kimatengo, neither of which has a word for abortion. Among the Igbo in Nigeria, human life is widely respected and any attempt to kill unborn human life is regarded as an abomination. When I asked colleagues in Sudan two years ago if they have word for abortion, they laughed at me and said they have never heard of such a word. I have also asked the Sotho in Lesotho, the Swazi in Swaziland, the Shona in Zimbabwe, the Chewa in Malawi and the Baganda in Uganda – all of whom unequivocally said they do not have word for abortion. Instead, they told me, there is a word for miscarriage. There is also often a special rite to bury the body of a stillborn baby, usually only women were involved. In fact, the rite was done so respectfully and secretly that children were not allowed to know.
So the claim that “since abortion is widely accepted as a personal matter, even when viewed as morally wrong” is utterly false and is meant to whitewash the imposition of a foreign concept into an African cultural setting. Until recent years, there was little or no abortion practice in Africa – and it was certainly not considered acceptable if it was practiced. It has always been viewed as morally wrong, and that is why it cannot be treated as merely a personal matter, any more than any other morally offensive practice. This is why those who have tried to forcefully introduce abortion in Africa have in large part failed.
Indeed, those who are still trying to bring abortion into Africa have tried to sell the evil practice by calling it “safe abortion.” But with a few sad exceptions they have yet to succeed. In an obscure provision (Article 14 (2)(c)), the Maputo Protocol tried to introduce abortion by appealing to exceptions such as abortion for rape, incest, for the mother’s life or health, but has not succeeded either. In Tanzania, the abortion lobby, through the deceptively named “Safe Motherhood Bill,” included exceptions to allow abortion for the woman’s physical or mental health, in the case that the child would be physically or mentally disabled and even if the mother suffers from a mental disability.
By using the concept “safe motherhood” abortion proponents thought it would appeal to the African mind. It has not and it will never convince African fathers and mothers to kill their unborn children “safely.” For, in truth, there is no “safe abortion.” People in Africa know in every abortion one person is killed, one person is wounded and one person gets paid.
Sadly, this attempt to expand abortion access in Tanzania has been led by a development organization that until recently has enjoyed great respect in Africa, CARE International. When I held a press conference to condemn the hidden expansion of abortion in the “Safe Motherhood” bill, I was contacted by CARE representatives who apparently thought they could change my mind. Since my reply to them, I have not heard back.
The fact that CARE International is now a leading promoter of both abortion and contraception in Africa should give serious pause to any government or Christian organization who is thinking about working with them. Interestingly, even CARE does not seem to care for the word “abortion” very much either, since they only refer to it and to contraception under the name of “reproductive health,” which they now say is as essential as food, water and shelter in “helping” Africans who are in emergency situations.
So it is true that abortion, like contraception, is an import from the West into African countries; a “gift” from those who seem to think that there are too many Africans. And now after gaining the support of liberal members of our society – radical feminists and gender activists – through media and financial incentives, a number of women do undergo abortions. But this does not in any way mean that abortion is accepted by a majority of women. That is why any attempt to use the Parliament to enact abortion laws has been met with stiff resistance by life-loving parliamentarians who still faithfully represent their constituents.
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Emil earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Dar es Salaam and a postgraduate diploma in Management and Administration in Rhede, Germany, as well as a degree from the Post Abortion Counseling and Healing program at Rhathvinden College, Ireland.
Emil joined the Bishops’ Conference in Tanzania and served as the National Coordinator for the Christian Professionals of Tanzania. For eight years, he worked as the Executive Secretary for the National Council of the Catholic Laity. It was during this time that he became acquainted with the pro-life movement and was inspired to found Pro-Life Tanzania in 1994. After Pro-Life Tanzania became affiliated to HLI in 1996, Emil became HLI’s regional director of English-speaking Africa.
Emil has written 6 books and booklets in Kiswahili and one in English. He is a sought-after speaker, educator, and consultant for all life-related issues and has a regular program on Radio Maria and Radio Tumaini. In his several missionary visits to all of the countries of his region, Emil has helped to consolidate and start new pro-life organizations throughout anglophone Africa.