On Wednesday, October 20, Benin became the most recent African country to legalize abortion in most circumstances after a heated debate in parliament.
Abortions were previously legal in the country if the pregnant mother’s life was at risk, if the pregnancy was conceived from rape or incest, or if the unborn child had severe infection.
Several countries in Africa have total bans or no explicit legal exception on abortion, including Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Senegal. Nigeria only permits when it’s necessary to save the life of the woman.
The vote in Benin was received with loud cheers and applause from women’s rights activists in the country and across the world.
“I am very, very happy that from now on we can give this right back to the woman–the right to autonomy over her body and to decide for herself,” Angela Kpeidja, President of N’aie Pas Peur, an NGO in Benin told Germany’s DW. “For a long time in our country, the woman was subject to decisions taken by her husband,” she added.
These sentiments expressed by Kpeidja are not unusual. Justice Luis María Aguilar, who wrote the opinion when Mexico’s supreme court legalized abortion in early September said it was “not about the right to abortion” but “the right to decide of women and persons able to gestate to make decisions.”
The Health Minister of Benin, Benjamin Hounkpatin, in supporting the new law, said it would provide relief for women who carried unwanted pregnancies and those who experienced botched abortions.
However, Obianuju Ekeocha, a Nigerian biomedical scientist and pro-life activist, argues that Benin was chosen for its small size and strategic location by special interest donors from the west who have fought for years to legalize abortion in Africa.
At a virtual event Thursday afternoon, hosted by The Center of Faith Family and Justice (CFFJ) in Uganda, Obianuju told the audience that the strong bonds in African families and the desire in their women to nurture and care for children have so far made abortion difficult to legalize. However, she warned that “the strength of feminism was beginning to show its hand.”
The first wave of the feminist movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement, fought for women’s rights to vote and gain opportunities in education and career. However, Obianuju noted that the second wave, which came under the force of sexual liberation–pleasure, identity, and freedom–has been detrimental to women. This form of feminism, which has morphed into a third wave, is what she believes the western donors wish to import into Africa.
“Now a third wave is something not to be ignored. It is about gender identity, sexual identity, trans and intersexuality,” she said. “The talk about feminism has become more polluted and it continues today where we see people who are born male identify as women.”
She referenced the current cultural situation in the United States where President Joe Biden recently appointed a man, who claims to be transgender as the “first-ever female four-star admiral” of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The man, 63-year-old Rachel Levine, who has been the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden administration since February, described his new appointment as a step toward a “more inclusive future.”
“Feminism today has nothing to do with women’s rights,” Obianuju said. “If a man can take away all the things that women have fought for, it is not about women.”
She explained that Western governments have begun to refine their foreign policies to target women. Canada recently rebranded and named its own the Feminism International Assistant Policy.
Obianuju also pointed out that the Gates Foundation–even after the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates–announced in June that it was donating 2.1 billion dollars for women empowerment in poor countries. She said that, whereas 650 million was earmarked for economic empowerment, a larger share of 11.2 billion dollars was allocated to organizations promoting contraceptives and abortion.
In a statement, Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said: “The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change.”
“The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it. We must seize this moment to build a better, more equal future.”
Obianuju, who is leading the fight to withstand the onslaught against women and families, believes that these billions of dollars will continue to be poured into Africa.
“They want it to be feminist under which they have given millions of dollars,” she said. “If African women stand back, Africa will collapse. What is holding Africa at the moment is that people are within their families.”
She added that the family is so crucial because it provides grace and support to those within it.
Despite the seeming defeat in Benin, Obianuju believes that African countries are pretty much untouched but its women and girls still need protection. “We have to speak up for the young girls and widows,” she said.
“If we can’t protect our own, someone else will. We have to find a way to protect them and prevent those coming in because what they think is women’s rights isn’t.”