Article 178, Books 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Penal Code, dating back to 1933 during Belgian colonial rule, serves as a significant barrier to offering and using family planning services because the article stipulated that any act likely to prevent conception would be penalized, including selling, distributing, exhibiting, and disseminating contraceptives. This law was problematic because it contradicted the presidential ordinance establishing the National Council for the Promotion of Desirable Births in 1973, which authorized the provision and promoProject detion of family planning.
This law contradicts the positive promotion of contraceptive use and family planning throughout the country, such as President Mobutu’s speech on naissances desirables in 1972 and the creation of the National Committee for Desirable Births (CNND) in 1978, the Committee of National Population (CONAPO) in 1986, and the Programme National de Santé de la Reproduction (PNSR) in 2001. ( See Family Planning History »).
Although an attempt was made in 2000 to eliminate article 178 by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the article still exists, constituting a legal problem that needs further attention. One goal of advocacy efforts in the future shall be to rescind this law, given that it serves as a barrier to the continuation of family planning efforts without threat of incrimination.