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Malawi’s religious leaders oppose abortion reform

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Summary of story from Nyasa Times, December 15, 2011

Religious leaders in Malawi are continuing to oppose abortion reform.

Women’s rights activists are asking the government to liberalise abortion laws, as it is only available when a woman’s life is in danger.

But campaigners argue that more women’s lives are lost due to complications from unsafe abortions, carried out by inexperienced or untrained people.

Nearly 20 per cent of maternal deaths in public hospitals in Malawi are because of unsafe abortion.

Seode White, national co-ordinator of Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust (WILSA), said: “Some of the methods used are drinking Surf [bleach], using wires, and poisonous herbs.

“Here we are talking about cases where a woman has become pregnant because of rape, incest or even when contraception fails.”

However, Sheikh Dinala Chabulika, national coordinator of the Islamic Information Bureau, said in an interview monitored on Radio Islam that abortion was a sin.

He said in Islam abortion is only allowed when there is proof from a Muslim medical doctor that the life of a mother will be in danger during delivery.

The sheikh said the best way to deal with pregnancy caused by incest and rape was to rush to the hospital soon after the incident, where they “clean” the woman.

Under Malawi’s penal code, anyone administering an abortion can face up to 14 years imprisonment, while a woman who solicits an abortion is liable to seven years in jail.

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