Act on causes of fistula: Amnesty International

Amnesty International

GLOBAL human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI) yesterday urged the government to address the causes of obstetric fistula following reports that women were failing to access treatment.

The condition, a devastating injury that occurs during childbirth, is caused mainly by prolonged obstructed labour.

“While treatment is a necessity and will bring out the much sought-after relief and healing, the government is urged to deal with the root causes of obstetric fistula such as child marriages, teenage pregnancies, poverty as well as access to quality healthcare services,” AI said in a statement.

“To promote, protect and fulfil the right to information, the government of Zimbabwe is encouraged to increase the platforms on which it can disseminate information on obstetric fistula and its treatment.”

Women Action Group programmes officer Fiona Tinarwo said government was responsible for ensuring that child marriages came to an end, as well as to curb cases of obstetric fistula.

“Ending child marriages means no girls are getting into marriages early when their bodies haven’t matured enough to carry through a pregnancy without any complications on delivery. At the same time, we have the age of consent to sex at 16, which means even if preventing child marriages helps to curb obstetric fistula, we will continue to have other factors reversing the positive impact as girls at 16 can consent to sex.  If they fall pregnant at 16 they might also have a complicated pregnancy,” Tinarwo said.

“We also have the Termination of Pregnancy Act (1977) that does not cover legal termination in offences such as having sexual intercourse with a young person ranging between 12 and 15 years, which means we are leaving this group to carry through a pregnancy that might also lead to obstetric fistula complications. We need to take a holistic approach to address obstetric fistula and by ending child marriages.”

She said the government should ensure that the Marriages Act is fully implemented to ensure child marriages are criminalised.

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