5 October 2017

Malawi's outdated abortion laws sending women to graves : CSO's petition in full

Photo: Nyasa Times
45 CSOs pushes Malawi govt to decriminalize abortion law.
document

As the world commemorates fourth five Civil Society Organizations met at Linde Motel in Dowa where it was observed that section 149, 150 and 151 is contributing significantly towards the deaths of women in Malawi.

These laws are outdated having been put in place by the colonial masters in almost 1861.

Malawi politicians have shown little political will on the repealing of the dangerous sections and at the same time propel the enactment of the newly proposed bill into law in fear of losing votes.

The question is how did neighboring countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe , Tanzania and South Africa managed to change their laws.

Nyasa Times publishes the Petition in full:

We, the forty Five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) having met on 27th and 28th September 2017 in Mponela and deliberated on Research Studies magnitude on the unsafe  abortion of  Pregnancy in Malawi, Current Hospital Management of Termination of Pregnancy Cases, Current Legal and Policy Framework on Abortion in Malawi, Proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill from Law Commission and Human Rights Framework on Women Health Rights in Malawi.

Bearing in mind that 28th September every year is World Safe Abortion Day

Recalling that Malawi Government through the Malawi Law Commission empanelled a Special Law Commission of Abortion Laws in 2013 with the mandate of Reviewing All Laws on Termination of Pregnancy in Malawi and the Commission finished its work in July, 2015

Noting that the Special Law Commission on Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws consisted of representatives from Government, Chiefs, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, all other churches under Malawi Council Churches and Muslim Association of Malawi and that together they proposed a bill on Termination of Pregnancy

Recognising that Malawi Government through Ministry of Health carried out various research studies on  Magnitude and Incidences of Unsafe Abortion, Strategic Assessment on Unsafe Abortion and Cost Study on providing post abortion care Knowing that as per 2015 Research Study by College of Medicine in Malawi, 53% of all pregnancies in Malawi are unintended, 141,000 abortions occur every year, 30-40% of admissions in gynaecological wards in hospitals are due to abortion related cases  and 18% of maternal mortality is due to unsafe abortion Appreciating that World Health Organisation (WHO) has already provided guidance on how to address issues of unsafe abortion in countries like Malawi Recognising that use of contraceptives is generally low with limited choices and it is recommended by World Health Organisation that every comprehensive family planning program in the world has to include provision of safe abortion services.
Understanding:

that Malawi has already signed and ratified various international human rights instruments on women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health rights including Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), African Protocol on Women’s Rights, Maputo Plan of Action,
Southern Africa Development Community

(SADC) Protocol on Health, SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and that Malawi also passed the Gender Equality Act (2013) in line with these instruments.

Considering: that under Section 19(1)(e) of the Gender Equality of Act, every person has a right to adequate sexual and reproductive health which includes the right to choose the number of children and when to bear those children. Under Section 19(2) of the same Gender Equality Act every person has a right to choose whether or not to have a child.

Realising :that under the Constitution of Malawi and the legal framework in Malawi guided by the courts, Malawi is bound to follow the General Comments and Guidelines from United Nations, African Union, Human Rights institutions and many international bodies have recommended the need to change and reform for the better Termination of Pregnancy Laws

Acknowledging the initiative taken by the Ministry of Health through the Special Law Commission on the review of the Abortion Law in Malawi

Hereby jointly issue this Press Statement to the People of Malawi in commemoration of International World Safe Abortion today and we continue to call and reach out to Malawi Parliament to pass Termination of Pregnancy Bill which is a law drafted through consensus by all sectors in Malawi and we continue to state as follows:

We note with deep concern: that unsafe abortion remains one of the top five causes of maternal mortality and morbidity in Malawi, where the most affected are poor women and girls.

We know that through experts from World Health Organisation, United Nations, African Union, Gynaecologists and Obstetricians, Midwives, Human Rights Experts that there is no any other way of addressing unsafe abortion apart from providing safe abortion services to women and girls who need the services.

We call upon :policy makers at all levels to take comprehensive steps to stop preventable complications and deaths of women and girls resulting from unsafe abortion.

We note : that under section 243 of the Penal Code abortion is legal in Malawi, but the law is very restrictive where it allows abortion only to save a woman’s life thereby maintaining the criminal provisions on abortion forcing women to procure abortion through unsafe means.

We appreciate :that there is no institution or group in Malawi who can stop women and girls from procuring abortion but women and girls can be offered choices to make decisions.

We note that section 243 of the Penal Code is restrictive unhelpful to women and girls rights.  Health professionals, lawyers, counselling officers and advocates as this law was developed in 1860 and the same law was changed in the United Kingdom in 1967.

We appreciate : that over the years there has been a lot of scientific developments on provision of medical abortion and that abortion drugs are available in Malawi but being used without policy framework and regulations.

We note : that the current abortion related laws in Malawi are archaic and outdated and call for law reform and development of new and clear laws on abortion is meant to reflect and address the dire situation on the ground where women are dying as well as complying with international human rights norms.

Malawi already has good laws on human rights and a shining example to the world when it comes to promotion and protection of human rights. The same should continue in promoting and protecting women’s rights by changing Termination of Pregnancy Law.

We recommend :that under the guidance of World Health Organisation (WHO) comprehensive family planning program has to be supported by access to safe abortion backed by clear legal provisions.

We propose: that Malawi should continue to emulate other AU member states such as Ethiopia, South Africa, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Ghana, Namibia and Zambia among others that have taken positive steps in developing laws that provide grounds for safe termination of pregnancy.

Therefore, urge and ask that:

The next sitting of parliament should debate Malawi Law Commission Report on Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws and appreciate why the laws were reformed. The report was finalized in 2015 and should not continue to gather dust.

The next sitting of parliament must debate and pass the Termination of Pregnancy Bill as proposed by Malawi Law Commission because the law was drafted through a very vigorous consultant process. All stakeholders were consulted and all sectors were present in the Special Law Commission and all sectors agreed that this is the law Malawi should adopt.

We repeat :  that there is no any other way of addressing deaths of women and girls due to unsafe abortions apart from having a good law on terminating of pregnancy.

We commit : ourselves to continue providing civic education to the people of Malawi on research studies on unsafe abortion, laws, human rights, women’s rights, gender and recommendations from World Health Organisation and other institutions on the need for access to safe legal abortion to prevent unnecessary deaths of women and girls

We, the undersigned, therefore,:  pledge to work with for the people of Malawi with the Government of Malawi in the ongoing law reform processes on abortion and provision of comprehensive abortion care services.

Signed on 28th September, 2017 at Mponela, Malawi

Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) ______________________________

Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion(COPUA)__________________________

Malawi Human Rights Resource Center (MHRRC)_________________________________

Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE)___________________________

Centre for Youth and Children Affairs (CEYCA)___________________________________

Foundation for Children’s Rights (FCR)_________________________________________

LADDER for Rural Development____________________________________________

Mango Network________________________________________________________

Passion For Women_______________________________________________________

Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA)___________________________________

NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGOGCN)_________________________________

Centre for Conflict Management and Women Development Affairs (CECOWDA)______________

Umunthu Foundation____________________________________________________

Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians_________________________________

Church and Society-C.C.A.P Synod of Livingstonia _______________________________

Human Rights Consultative Council (HRCC)_____________________________________

Women Lawyers Association(WLA)___________________________________________

Council of NGOs in Malawi (CONGOMA) __________________________________

MANERELLA+___________________________________________________________

MANGO NETWORK______________________________________________________

Foundation for Community Support Services(FOCUS)______________________________

Health and Rights Education Programme_____________________________________

Center for Solutions Journalism____________________________________________

Center for the Development of the People (CEDEP)______________________________

National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi(NONM)___________________

Active Youth Initiative for Social Enhancement (AYISE)____________________________

Youth Watch Society _____________________________________________________

Disabled Women in Africa (DIWA)___________________________________________

Girls Empowerment Network (GENET)_______________________________________

Association for progressive Women (APW)_________________________________

Women’s Hope for Change_____________________________________________

FAWEMA___________________________________________________________

Pan African Civic Education Network (PACENET)_____________________________

National Election Systems Trust (NEST)____________________________________

Gender Support Programme (GSP)________________________________________

Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN)______________________________________

Save the Children Fund Malawi_________________________________________________

National Elections Systems trust____________________________________________

Outreach Scout Foundation (OSF)___________________________________________

Lawyers for Human Rights____________

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