Women in Swaziland (eSwatini) are using unregulated family planning products that might cause cancer, a leading sexual health expert has warned.
Bongani Msibi, Acting Executive Director of Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS), said unregulated products were available in the kingdom that often came without instructions for their safe use. The products were designed to prevent pregnancy.
Msibi told a parliamentary forum in Manzini misuse of the products increased the risk of cervical or breast cancer.
Msibi said the government provided regulated family planning products for free, but some people still used unregulated ones.
Women’s sexual health is a controversial topic in Swaziland where abortion is illegal but pills that purport to induce abortions are openly on sale. In February 2020 a woman was sentenced to 30 years in jail with the option of an E45,000 (US$2,700) fine for selling Cytotec pills which induced abortion.
Under the Swazi Constitution abortion is illegal in Swaziland except under strict circumstances, including where a mother’s life is in danger.
Because abortions are illegal in Swaziland it is difficult to say accurately how many are performed in the kingdom. However, in August 2018 the Times of Swaziland reported that every month, nurses at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital in Manzini attended more than 100 cases of young women who had committed illegal abortions.
The IRIN news agency, quoting the FLAS, reported that in October 2012 more than 1,000 women were treated for abortion-related complications at a single clinic in Swaziland. Many of the deaths were the result of haemorrhaging, while others resulted from the patient’s delay in seeking medical treatment for other complications stemming from illegal terminations.
In November 2012 the IRIN news agency reported that 16 percent of all women deaths in the government hospital in Mbabane that year were the result of botched abortions. It said that this figure was only those cases that were reported, there were certainly other deaths unreported.
In December 2018 the Swazi Observer reported the number of illegal ‘backstreet’ abortions taking place in Swaziland was ‘escalating’ because social media had made it easier to obtain abortion pills.
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