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Dhaka Tribune

High Court issues ruling on abortion laws

The ruling comes in response to a writ

Update : 19 Aug 2020, 12:45 AM

The High Court has issued a ruling asking why the abortion related sections in the Penal Code should not be declared void as it is contradictory with fundamental rights guaranteed in Bangladesh Constitution.

The bench of Justice Tariq-ul Hakim and Justice SM Kuddus Zaman issued the ruling after a virtual hearing on a writ in this regard on Tuesday. 

Four people, including the secretary of the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs and registrar general of the Supreme Court, have been made respondents to the ruling.

Advocate Syeda Nasrin stood for the writ, while Deputy Attorney General Amit Das Dupta represented the state. 

Advocate Syeda Nasrin said keeping abortion illegal leads many pregnant women to seek abortion from disreputable doctors and nurses. In many cases, such abortions may lead to other health complications later in life, or even death.

She also said if rape victims become pregnant, they are unable to abort the unwanted foetus, and their lives are substantially altered. 

According to the petition, abortion-related provisions of Sections 312-316 of the Penal Code 1860 are discriminatory and contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 27, 29, 31, 32, 38 and 42 of the constitution. 

“Miscarriage/abortion at any stage is a punishable offence but in reality, abortion is available,” the writ said, mentioning that it is difficult to prevent abortion in a country where the number of rape cases is alarming, use of birth control low and illiteracy rate high.

Illegal routes to abortion endanger the lives of both the woman and child, leading to social stigma and contributing to increasing numbers of orphans and street children, it added.

“In the civic sense, law should not impose motherhood, respecting the individuals’ rights to life, liberty, freedom of choice and privacy. Carrying a fetus in the womb should be the deliberate decision of a woman, as it substantially changes her life,” it further said, 

Section 312 says: “Whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry, shall, if such miscarriage be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both; and, if the woman be quick with child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

 Section 316 says: “Whoever does any act under such circumstances, that if he thereby caused death he would be guilty of culpable homicide, and does by such act cause the death of a quick unborn child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.” 

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