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Karim Abawi, Marloes Schoonheim, Yoseph W/Gebriel Gessesse


The Constitution of Ethiopia, 1994, grants all Ethiopians the right to health services, as stated in the following articles:

  • Article 35 Rights of women section 1: Women shall, in the enjoyment of rights and protections provided for by this Constitution, have equal right with men.
  • Article 35 Rights of women section 4: The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited. (a) Women have the right to maternity leave with full pay. The duration of maternity leave shall be determined by law taking into account the nature of the work, the health of the mother and the well-being of the child and family. (b) Maternity leave may, in accordance with the provisions of law, include prenatal leave with full pay.
  • Article 35 Rights of women section 8: To prevent harm arising from pregnancy and childbirth and in order to safeguard their health, women have the right of access to family planning education, information and capacity.
  • Article 41 section 4: The State shall allocate progressively increasing funds for the purposes of promoting the people's access to health, education and other social services.
  • Article 51 Powers and Functions of the Federal Government: It shall establish and implement national standards and basic policy criteria for public health, education, science and technology as well as for the protection and preservation of cultural and historical legacies.
  • Article 89 section 8: Government shall endeavor to protect and promote the health, welfare and living standards of the working population of the country.
  • Article 90 Social Objectives section 1: To the extent the country‚Äôs resources permit, policies shall aim to provide all Ethiopians access to public health and education, clean water, housing, food and social security.

Sexual and reproductive rights implementation

  • Abortion: the Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 2004 prohibits the intentional abortion or termination of pregnancy (by the pregnant woman or by another person), which is punishable with imprisonement (article 545, 546, 547, 548). Punishment can be mitigated if a pregnancy is terminated on acount of extreme poverty (article 550). Abortion, within period permitted by the profession, is legal if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, the continuance of the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother or the child, the child has an incurable and serious deformity; or where the pregnant woman is physically as well as mentally unfit to bring up the child (article 551).
  • Female Genital mutilation: the Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 2004 distinghuishes female circumcision (punishable with simple imprisonment or a fine) and infibulation of the female genitalia (punishable with rigorous imprisonment from three years to five years). If infubulation caused injury to body or health, punishment shall be rigorous imprisonment from five years to ten years (article 565, 566).
  • Rights of sexual minorities: article 25 of the Constitution of Ethiopia does not include sexuality in the prohibition of grounds for discrimination. The Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 2004 prohibits sexual acts with another person of the same sex, which is punishable with simple imprisonement and, under some aggravating circumstances, with rigorous imprisonement from three to fifteen years (article 629, 630, 631).
  • Violence against women the Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 2004 has several passages concerning violence against women, for example rape (article 620, 625) and trafficing women and minors (article 635).

Sexual and reproductive rights challenges

Despite the adoption of laws and policies the Ethiopian government faces numerous challenges in the implementation of rights, which is mostly due to lack of capacity of the government and other stakeholders and low awareness of general public. Women in particular lack the knowledge that they can exercise reproductive rights. For more information please consult the National Reproductive Health Strategy 2006-2015.

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