MYC calls for urgent tabling of TOP Bill – Capital Radio Malawi
29 May, 2024

MYC calls for urgent tabling of TOP Bill

The Mzuzu Youth Caucus (MYC) is urging parliamentarians to prioritize tabling of the long-awaited Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) Bill in the next sitting of parliament to safeguard the rights of women and girls in the country.

The call comes as the Bill has been languishing in limbo, nine years after it was drafted.

“It is quite strange that a law that safeguards the rights of women and girls when it comes to issues of pregnancy remains in limbo. Every woman and every girl has the right to choose whether to carry on with the pregnancy or not, especially when their rights are infringed or at risk.”

“There are several cases where as a country we have recorded cases of some girls falling pregnant due to rape and other unwanted or disturbing circumstances. If they feel like they do not want to hold on to that pregnancy, they should have the right to terminate it,” MYC chairperson Gomezgani Nkhoma says.

In 2015, the government drafted the TOP Bill to expand the grounds on which women and girls can access abortion services including when the woman’s life is in danger, in cases of rape, defilement, and incest, and when there are severe malformations of the foetus.

Currently, Malawi’s restrictive laws only allow abortion when a woman’s life is at risk, as determined by a medical practitioner. In reality, this limitation is driving many women and girls towards unsafe procedures, resulting in grave complications.

However, despite being drafted nine years ago, authorities are yet to bring the Bill to parliament for discussions and potential passage. This delay is exacerbating the crisis of unsafe abortions in the country, leading to dire consequences for women and girls.

For example, in 2023 alone, approximately 35,000 women and girls sought Post Abortion Care (PAC), with these figures representing only the registered cases. The true extent of the issue likely far exceeds these numbers, with many cases going unreported.

Women and girls are dying with others left with permanent disabilities. Beyond that, the government is spending millions on PAC, funds that could have been channelled elsewhere.

“We have lost a lot of girls due to unsafe abortions. We have lost competent women who could have driven this country forward. Therefore, it is our prayer that in the next sitting of parliament, this Bill must be tabled. The Ministry of Justice should work tirelessly to have this Bill tabled, deliberated, and of course passed so that lives of women and girls should be protected,” Nkhoma says.

MYC’s call to have the Bill passed extends beyond parliamentarians with Nkhoma further urging faith leaders, majority of whom have been opposing the Bill, to recognize the imperative of protecting the reproductive rights of women and girls.

He adds that; “We will first of all engage our legislator for Mzuzu City so he can support the Bill. We will as well pen the minister of Justice to ensure that the Bill is tabled in parliament. We will try to engage all concerned parties including religious groupings and women caucus in parliament to make sure that they come to an understanding that this Bill is vital in as far as rights of women and girls are concerned,” concluded Nkhoma.

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