Aborting and suspending pregnancy in rural Tanzania: an ethnography of young people's beliefs and pratices

Journal articles
Population Council
11 p.
Periodical title
Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Special issue based on a seminar of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, Vol. 39, No. 4, December 2008.

This study is an article extracted from "Studies in family Planning" published in December 2008. The objective of this study is to analyse abortion practices and beliefs among adolescents and young adults in Tanzania, where abortion is illegal. From 1999 to 2002, six researchers carried out participant observation in nine villages and conducted group discussions and interviews in three others. Most informants opposed abortion as illegal, immoral, dangerous, or unacceptable without without the man's consent, and many reported that ancestral spirits killed women who aborted clan descendants. Nevertheless, abortion was widely attempted by ingestion of laundry detergent, chloroquine, ashes and specific herbs. Most women who attempted abortion were young, single and desperate. Some succeeded, but they experienced opposition from sexual partners, sexual exploitation by pratitioners, serious health problems, social ostracism, and quasi-legal sanctions. No evidence has been found to suggest that induced abortions in Tanzania either have decreased or become safer. The low prevalence of use of effective contraceptives among sexually active young people underlines the critical need for improved reproductive health education and services in rural areas of Tanzania. Increasing the practice of effective contraception is likely to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion, but it may not eliminate it, because unwanted pregnancies will occur when couples do not use contraceptives and when contraceptives fail.

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