“I don’t think abortion should go to referendum for people to vote yes or no. If it is to be included in a referendum it should be simply for us to vote whether or not the right should be guaranteed in the new constitution,” stresses Mariama.
Mariama’s appeal comes in the wake of a letter from State House regarding direction therein to the CRC recommending sending to referendum the abortion issue.
“The people of Sierra Leone can later decide by referendum whether or not they want abortion to be included as a right in our constitution. It is not all laws that can be found in the constitution. The inclusion of abortion in the new constitution should merely be further safeguarding of the right of everyone, not just women. Abortion is a family issue which touches every member of the family,” says Mariama.
She continues: “Constitutions are not easy to change. That is the simple reason that I advocated for the inclusion of abortion in the new constitution.”
In fact, she notes that it is not even certain whether the abortion issue will be included in the referendum, “all the more reason the Safe Abortion Act should be passed into law until such time”.
Mariama further argues that it is totally against the very section 16 of the Constitution for abortion to continue illegally, especially in respect of those cases that are supported by the Maputo Protocol.
“The same right to life must be supreme. We respect tradition, but is it beneficial to our country to violate agreements and be in breach yet want to claim we Sierra Leoneans or the Government of Sierra Leone uphold the law? The answer is obvious,” she queries.
The Notary Public & Commissioner for Oaths therefore urges campaigners to lobby lawmakers/Honourable Parliamentarians “to follow the law, upholding human rights, execute contracts, agreements signed in ‘good faith’ by passing laws in that regard.” She commends Parliamentarians for allowing such a Bill in the first place, but calls on them to now consider reasonable suggested amendments to fine-tune the proposed Act and, above all, to be realistic.
In this vein Mariama suggests the holding of a dialogue session with parliamentarians and speakers from different pro-groups to convince them; to continue and intensify one-one personal lobbying; and continue and intensify public sensitization.
“We can do it as we did for the Gender Acts. The Ministry can also take the lead. It is up to all of us. Let us not relent. Discussion on TV and Radio should be focused along passing of the Act. We can still go to referendum,” she appeals.
Moreover, in Mariama’s opinion, after the Maputo Protocol the Parliamentarians hands are tied.
“The passing of the Act especially as contained in the said Protocol is A MUST. What should go to referendum is whether to have the issue of abortion in the constitution as further guarantee that it is legal in the circumstances that will be contained in the “Safe Abortion Act of 2016,” says Mariama, adding that the issue of deciding whether or not abortion should be made legal should be dispensed with after ratification of the said Protocol.
Marima, who has just been elected as one of the representatives of the Sierra Leone Bar Association to the General Legal Council (GLC), believes Parliamentarians represented the people’s interest when they ratified the Maputo Protocol and Sierra Leone is therefore bound to comply.
“May God direct them to do the right thing,” she prays.
Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association- Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).