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My womb is tired: a socio-legal perspective of the reproductive autonomy of women in south-west Nigeria with a focus on abortion

Aderibigbe, Titilayo Oyenihun (2006) My womb is tired: a socio-legal perspective of the reproductive autonomy of women in south-west Nigeria with a focus on abortion. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94150) (KAR id:94150)

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The patriarchal colonial Nigerian society evaluated women’s importance to society by the reproductive proclivity of their wombs. Women’s wombs became a blessing and a burden in that their individual autonomous rights became subsumed into their procreative ability. This value judgement finds expression in the abortion law that no longer meets the needs of contemporary women. Women historically controlled their reproduction within the patriarchal system to their advantage, but colonisation re-defined women’s status within society taking away their reproductive autonomy and other rights. Women have since found it expedient to take back those rights by choosing abortion despite it’s unlawfulness and to their disadvantage. Procuring illegal abortion affects women’s health adversely, but a law that meets their reproductive and other social needs will prevent the hazard.

Earlier findings on abortion in Nigeria and the empirical data reported within it have been conducted in a hospital environment. They have focused on the prevalence of abortion within a specific population. However, this thesis goes further by examining the historical foundation of the socio-cultural attitudes to women’s sexuality and reproductive autonomy. In doing so, it argues for a legal framework that gives women control of their reproduction through the amendment of the abortion law to meet the reproductive needs of contemporary women. The study includes an empirical element conducted in Nigeria involving questionnaires; observations; focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with a representative population sample. The empirical data highlights specific areas of the law that need to be addressed to make it socio-culturally acceptable. Giving women the right to choose abortion would be an acknowledgement of the constitutionally guaranteed autonomous rights of women, which they traditionally exercised, but which were taken away by colonialism and patriarchy. This thesis challenges the State to encompass abortion choice within its reproductive, sexual health and population policy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94150
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Abortion; Nigria
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2022 09:49 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2023 14:23 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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