The Christian Science Monitor

In Namibia's abortion debate, echoes of a repressive history

The president’s voice came booming in through the open window of Rosa Namises’ house, crackling over the speakers from the soccer stadium next door.

It was the early 1990s, just years after Namibia’s independence from South Africa, a time when nearly every speech a politician here gave seemed full of outsized meaning – like a series of patriotic “how to” guides on building a new country. 

That day in her kitchen, Ms. Namises heard President Sam Nujoma explain that Namibia was a small nation. Too small, in fact. It simply didn’t have enough people.

“And so he said to the men – it’s your patriotic duty to have children,” she remembers. For Namises, an activist who hoped independence would mean the chance to reform Namibia’s strict abortion law, it was confirmation of something she’d long feared.

Old laws, new societiesCharged debate

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