Case Studies

Decriminalisation of abortion in Asia & Pro Bono Lawyering

July 2022 | South Asia

The second Asia Regional Pro Bono Quarterly Roundtable of 2022  on “Decriminalisation of abortion in Asia: Engaging and Leveraging Pro Bono” was held on 16 June 2022.  The virtual event was organised in partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the United Nations Development Programme. More than 80 people participated for the event, representing different countries, civil society organisations, and legal professionals. 

The discussion focused on the necessity of decriminalising abortion in Asia and the potential value of pro bono interventions. The event covered the legal and policy frameworks for medical abortion and self-management that are currently in place in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, South Korea, and the Philippines. 

The panellists also discussed how abortion laws affect the lives, rights and well-being of pregnant persons. The discussion also focused on how criminal restrictions on abortion violate the fundamental rights of women and girls, including their right to life, privacy, health and dignity. 

The event was led and moderated by Radhika Saxena, Senior Program Officer for South Asia at iProbono. The speakers for the session included:

  • Aparna Chandra, India – Associate Professor of Law at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.
  • Bandana Upreti, Nepal – Junior Program Officer at iProbono where she works to secure economic and social rights. 
  • Dasol Lyu, South Korea – Director of International Relations at MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society.
  • Jihan Jacob, Philippines – Human rights defender who works as the Senior Legal Advisor for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
  • Prabina Bajracharya, Nepal – Human rights lawyer and Senior Manager for Asia at the Centre for Reproductive Rights.
  • Sabin Shrestha, Nepal – Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), who has spent the last 20 years working to secure access to reproductive rights in Nepal.
  • Dr. Syeda Nasrin, Bangladesh – An Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh who has challenged the constitutionality of anti-abortion provisions in Bangladesh’s Penal Code.

This roundtable was convened a week prior to the United States Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v.  Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade that provided for the constitutional right to abortion. In this context, the panellists also explored the civil rights of people and medical professionals who perform or undergo abortions. As the speakers answered questions from the audience, the issue and significance of pro bono activities were the subject of a lively and in-depth conversation at the event. The event concluded with a renewed commitment to decriminalising to abortion and leveraging pro bono for the purpose.  

Join us for the next round table during the 11th Asia Pro Bono Conference in Laos between 16th – 18th September, 2022.

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