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September 28th 2015 is marked as Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. We talked to Mirawati (Mira) about this topic. Mira is Director of IHAP, one of Simavi’s local partners in Indonesia working on the improvement of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.


What does access to safe abortion mean to you?

A situation in which a government provides safe abortion services for every woman who requests it. This could be medical or surgical abortion, as long as it is performed according to WHO guidelines. This service should be an integrated part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and financially accessible.

Access to safe abortion is a fundamental part of sexual and reproductive health services. Governments, in this case the Government of Indonesia, must provide this kind of health service to fulfil, protect and ultimately to respect everyone in this country as agreed in the International Declaration of Human Rights.


In Indonesia access to safe abortion is complicated. Can you explain why?

There are Indonesian laws on reproductive health contain policies that aim to regulate abortion. These policies say that safe abortion services can be provided to pregnant women in a medical emergency or if their pregnancy is a result of sexual violence/rape. However, there are still approximately two million cases of unsafe abortion in Indonesia every year. These are not performed according to WHO guidelines and are often done by traditional healers or pregnant women themselves. 87% of these unsafe abortions are conducted by married women and 13% by single women. 67% of these unsafe abortions result in (maternal) death.

The five principle challenges to implementing safe abortion services in Indonesia are:
1) We lack the instruments and tools to implement the policy regarding the law relating to unsafe abortion.
2) The Indonesian Doctors Association refuses to provide safe abortion services because they can be penalised according to the law.
3) There is substantial religious opposition to the implementation of safe abortion.
4) The level of SRHR knowledge is low within both government and local communities.
5) Unwanted pregnancies are taboo, and women who openly admit that their pregnancy is unwanted and wish to access safe abortion services are stigmatised.


What is IHAP able to do about this situation with support from Simavi?

Together we empower communities to advocate for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Our current project aims to build a Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) service mechanism for young people by providing comprehensive SRHR information to young people, but also government and SRH service providers. We develop education tools, for example an SRHR e-Learning module using interactive games. With these activities we build the capacity of youth peer educators, government officers and service providers, and make sure more young people are referred to the youth-friendly services they need.

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