MALAWI – Journalists asked to question government why Termination of Pregnancy Bill is not being tabled in Parliament

Following on from our report from Malawi in last week’s newsletter, a consortium of civil society organizations (CSOs) implementing the Breaking the Barriers Project has made an impassioned appeal to the media in Malawi to question why, up to now, government is reluctant to table the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in Parliament. The groups involved in the consortium include the Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC), Malawi SRHR Alliance, Centre for Solutions Journalism (CSJ), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), and Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA).

Speaking at the opening of a day-long training workshop for members of the Bwaila Media Club in Lilongwe, CHRR Executive Director Michael Kayatsa bemoaned the government’s reluctance to table the bill in the parliament. He observed that despite the law restricting and criminalizing abortion, many women still access abortion services clandestinely. He talked about a case in which a little girl was impregnated after being defiled but was denied access to a safe abortion, thereby endangering her life. “If you were a parent of that girl, what would you do?” he asked. The parents and the girl are suing the government for denying her the right to safe abortion.

He pointed out that not a single legal luminary has ever defined what it means when the law says abortion is legal when the life of the mother is in danger. He said it was the opinion of the civil society NGOs that every woman’s life is in danger when abortion is illegal and should be eligible for termination of pregnancy. He vowed that the group of CSOs will continue pushing for the bill to be tabled, and that only then will Malawi comply with international instruments it has signed, including the Maputo Protocol, which calls for safe abortion to be provided where there is a risk to the woman’s health. The Gender Equality Act says women have a right to choose when to have children. “We are losing a lot of lives,” he said. “Help us move the government, and the parliament.”

Josephine Phumisa, a freelance journalist, assured the CSOs of the journalists’ commitment to partnering with the activists and disseminate correct information on safe abortion with the aim of changing people’s mindset. “I believe we will achieve the goal”, she said.

SOURCE: Nyasa Times, by Watipaso Mzungu JNR, 21 March 2024 ; PHOTO: Centre for Solutions Journalism, 21 February 2024