Malawi: Youths in Mzuzu, Nkhatabay Endorse Abortion Bill

28 November 2020

Youths from Mzuzu and Nkhata-Bay have spoken in support of the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill, saying if passed it will help in safeguarding their sexual reproductive health rights.

The youths sounded their concerns at Ilala Crest Lodge on Thursday where they had a meeting as part of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence for the year 2020 which begins from 25th November to 10th December.

At the meeting, Glory Chumbi of Church and Society under the Synod of Livingstonia made a presentation in which among other things she outlined forms of Gender Based Violence.

Chinsinsi Wingolo, a health practitioner from Mzuzu Central Hospital, presented on causes of unsafe abortions which include poverty, desire to finish school, religious beliefs and social surrounding.

The two presenters recommended that the youth should be empowered to seek and exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights.

They called on members of Parliament to pass the Bill when it is tabled in the august House.

The proposed Bill is lobbying for the safe termination of pregnancy where it poses a threat to the life of a woman, or it as a result of incest or rape among others.

The current law only provides for termination of pregnancy where the life of a woman is in danger.

In his short presentation, Luke Tembo from the Minstry of Health observed that it was only Malawi which had a restrictive law regarding abortion as opposed to its neighbours.

Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Mathews Ngwale, who plans to table the Termination of Pregnancy Bill during the February 2021 sitting of Parliament in Lilongwe said most women die because of unsafe abortions in Malawi.

Ngwale said he feels duty-bound as a member of Parliament to move the Bill to stop these preventable deaths.

He then challenged the youth to organise themselves and sensitise the community and their Members of Parliament on the importance of the bill which will protect the lives of girls and women in the country.

"This bill is not well understood by Members of Parliament and the general public at the moment. This bill is about many women that are dying in Malawi. Today I was interacting with the youth of Nkhata-Bay and Mzuzu, telling them that there is need for the community including the youth to voice out their stand on this important bill.

"About 439 women die for every 100,000 in Malawi due to unsafe abortions as compared to other countries that amended their laws. Zambia, it's 218, Mozambique it's 289 and South Africa it's 118. Those are much better figures than we have. The difference is coming in because they changed their laws to protect their women. We are not changing our laws. We are letting our women and girls down," Ngwale told Nyasa Times.

Ngwale has the support of various advocacy groups, including the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (Copua)--a fierce campaigner of the proposed Bill.

Copua, which organised the meeting, claims the country has a high prevalence of death from unsafe abortions, a thing that needs to be addressed.

Vice chairperson for Copua, Dr Amos Nyaka, said women are still terminating pregnancies in very unsafe conditions under the restrictive law hence the need to make legal provisions that can protect women from dying from unsafe abortions.

"It makes sense that whilst we are discussing the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, we should also look at other remedies that can minimise violence that goes against women hence empowering the youth on the same," added Nyaka.

Chimwemwe Banda, a youth activist from Centre for Girls and Interaction, said the youth were advocating for the passing of the bill.

"We have a role to play for this bill to be passed. This bill, when it becomes a law, will protect the youths as well. From the meeting we had today, we need to do more so that all stakeholders understand the bill so that it is eventually passed," explained Banda.

Later, the youths issued a communique where they observed that the current law on abortion is restrictive and unclear, but the restriction does not reduce cases of unsafe abortion.

They therefore strongly called upon Members of Parliament to soberly deliberate and enact the termination of pregnancy bill. They also called upon religious leaders to encourage their members to seek reproductive health services including access to comprehensive abortion care.

Over 141 000 women induce abortion every year in Malawi, according to findings of a Strategic Assessment of Unsafe Abortion in Malawi (2009).

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