In March 2009, the National Assembly voted a law, which was published in the Official Gazette No 2009/003/14 April 2009, authorising the President of the Republic to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights relative to the rights of the woman, adopted in Maputo on July 11, 2003 (see Cameroon Tribune of 15/04/2009). The said law was ratified on May 28, 2009.
This law is aimed at protecting the African woman from physical violence and from discriminations of all sorts. The Church supports this desire to protect the woman from social injustices and from abuses of all sorts. The Instrumentum Laboris of the 11th Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops denounces such abuses in the following terms: "Everywhere on the continent, women continue to be subjected to many forms of injustice: domestic violence; acts of domination by their husbands; polygamy which deforms the sacred character of marriage and the family and creates a rivalry between spouses and the children they bear; lack of respect for the dignity and rights of widows; prostitution; and the genital mutilation of women." (No 59).
However, article 14 of the Maputo Protocol truly endangers life at birth by granting abusive reproductive rights to the woman. In other words, this article provides an open door to the legalisation of abortion in Africa, and we condemn it. We reaffirm the important place of family life and of responsible parenthood. (We have attached the said article to this declaration).
This law contradicts the Cameroonian law against abortion, and its legalisation.
The Catholic Church has strongly reacted against this Protocol from the moment it was adopted on July 11, 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique. Speaking on January 8, 2007 to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, said: "How can we not express our concern over the continual attack on human life from the moment of conception to natural death? Such attacks have even been recorded in areas of the world that have traditionally been known to respect human life, such as Africa, where attempts are now being subtly made to render abortion more common by the Maputo Protocol, and in the action plan adopted by the Health Ministers of the African Union, which shall soon be submitted to the Summit of Heads of State and Government."
During his recent visit to Cameroon, Pope Benedict XVI defended human life in his speech to the sick at the Paul Emile Leger National Center for the Rehabilitation of Handicapped People in these words: "It is for you (researchers and doctors) to protect human life as a matter of priority since you are the defenders of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. For everyone, the defence of life is a right and also a duty because each life is a gift from God."
Believers in our country as well as true Africans believe that life is sacred and condemn all that endangers it. To them, abortion is a crime.
In 1979, the bishops of Cameroon condemned this practice in their "Pastoral Letter on Induced Abortion." On several occasions, they have reminded us of God's law: "Thou shall not kill."
It is for all these reasons, and counting on the humane nature of all Cameroonian citizens and on their respect of the sanctity of life, that we appeal, in the name of the Lord, to everyone's conscience, to defend human life, and eradicate abortion, artificial birth-control methods, and all forms of abuses that violate the dignity of the human person in our country.
Issued in Yaounde on June 27, 2009
The Bishops of Cameroon