Gabon’s progressive pro-women laws

GABON’S government has proposed new laws to promote gender equality and loosen restrictions on abortion, Prime Minister Rose Christiane Raponda has announced.

Parliament is expected to vote during its current session to allow divorce by mutual consent and to eliminate requirements that women obey their husbands and notify them when they open a bank account, Raponda told Reuters in an interview.

“The legal changes aim to tackle the issues of violence and discrimination that women face in out society,” said Raponda, who became the Central African nation’s first female prime minister last year.

The U.S. State Department said in 2019 that women in Gabon faced “considerable societal discrimination”, including in obtaining loans. Advocacy groups reported that domestic violence was common, it said.

On abortions, the government’s proposals include allowing them beyond the current limit of 10 weeks into a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest or when there was a risk to the mother’s life. However, abortion will remain illegal in most other cases.

“We found an alternative to protect women who end up with undesired pregnancies,” Raponda said.

Gabon, which has a population of around 2 million, has moved in recent years to liberalise parts of its criminal code.

Last year it became one of the few African countries to decriminalise homosexuality.

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