Women in Malawi have yet again been handed the short end of the stick where they cannot even exercise their right of choice in terms of having an abortion. Citizens of the country contested the Termination of pregnancy Bill, which allowed abortions to take place in the event that a woman’s mental or physical health was in danger, when she has been raped, when incest occurs and if there are significant fetal abnormalities. Currently in Malawi, abortions are only permitted if the procedure will save a woman’s life, with no exceptions. However, this contributes highly to unsafe abortions which are then conducted by ingesting detergents, corporal punishment or worse, the use and insertion of a metal or long enough apparatus (usually a hanger) that will destroy the fetus. As we can most probably assume, these could be detrimental enough to end a woman’s life. The current 160-year-old law criminalizes abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger, with offenders facing up to 14 years in jail. Critics have estimated that the law leads to more than 140,000 backstreet abortions annually that cause 12,000 deaths, according to a joint study by Malawi’s College of Medicine and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute.
As expected, the Termination of Pregnancy Bill which would permit safe abortions was denied. It is unfortunate because the reasons one would need an abortion are barely considered. Women in Malawi are basically forced to have a child even if they are not emotionally, mentally, physically, or financially stable. Why can’t women be allowed to make decisions for their own bodies? What is worse is that there are women on the board as well who contribute to this atrocity. It appears privilege hinders people from seeing what the less fortunate could be facing.
On Thursday the 11th of March, the Termination of PregnancyBill was supposed to be presented in parliament, by MP Matthews Ngwale, Chairperson and his committee. He sated that he was especially confident that that Parliament would adopt the Bill, which would prevent women and girls from dying as a result of unsafe abortions. To be frank, abortion is already permissible, all the bill was attempting to do was extend those who are eligible as well as to save the lives of our women.
Having been rejected, Minister of Homeland Security and member of parliament: Richard Chimwendo Banda stated, “What they have done is to deny even discussing it. Which means you can’t force the members. They don’t want it. Actually, there was no single ‘yes.’ Out of all members in parliament, all of them refused.” Imagine being so caught up in your privilege, religion, and stubbornness to not care enough about what the women in the country are going through. The system continues to FAIL Malawian women, condemning them to a fate that may sometimes be worse than death. Having to raise a child that they were not ready to have or were forced into having a child even when they have been raped, just because their country perpetuates the hate for them. Even their fellow women.
“It’s unfortunate that we are continuing delaying the process," said Jessie Ching'oma, board member of the Gender Coordination Network. "If status quo continues, it means women and girls will continue having unsafe abortion[s], which is a violation of their rights.” Although the TOP Bill faced a stagnant end last week, the country people refuse to give up. We will not rest until women are finally treated as though they are people who deserve rights just as well as men are. We are tired of having men dictate every aspect of our lives. WE WILL FIGHT.