Revealing the code of silence that rules reproductive rights

In Algeria abortion is simply illegal. A woman can be punished by six months to two years in prison and a fine. The abortionist is subject to one to five years in prison and a hefty fine.

According to the president of a women’s rights association, as reported in the Algerian newspaper L’Expression, there are about 80 000 abortions a year for 775 000 pregnancies in Algeria. The police reported only 27 cases in 2012. So what is happening in Algeria?

The code of silence is the rule.

Women who seek help with unwanted pregnancies have few options and they all imply a sense of shame and fear. The rule is to use word of mouth information and have enough money, on average $400, which is high price in Algeria.

The journalist of L’Expression follows the same principle of word of mouth to investigate the providers’ identities, how women get information and how the procedure is performed. It leads him and his partner to doctors who are militant and outraged by the situation as well as to charlatans who take advantage of women’s desperate search for relief. In any case, women are ashamed, isolated and have no protection and no recourse as they face horrendous medical consequences.

The article sends a clear message that this situation is shameful for society and that it has to change. As the reporters note, there have been changes, especially with the advent of the Internet. Women in Algeria have begun to engage in a public forum to break the rule of silence. We have seen the possibilities of these strong women’s voices in neighboring countries.

The code of silence has become the rule as well for many women in the United States seeking reproductive services where, law after law, women’s right are being restricted, putting many women to precarious situations. In 42 states restrictions on abortion rights have already been anticipated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will be enacted in 2014.

2012 has been the second year with the greatest number of new legislation to restrict access to reproductive services such as abortion, with about 122 provisions related to restrict access to reproductive health. Being a woman at the age of reproduction is a risky condition … in the United States as in Algeria.

Stop the code of silence, let’s hear women’s voices and respect their right to be.


(Photo Credit: Reuters / Zohra Bensemra)


About Brigitte Marti

Brigitte Marti is an organizer researcher who has worked on reproductive rights and women's health initiatives in France and in the European Union and on women prisoners' issues in the United States. She is a member of Women Included, a new transnational feminist collective, that is part of the Women 7, a coalition that advocates for the inclusion of women's rights in the G7.