Malawi’s Health and Minority Rights Bills Gathering Dust

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have repeatedly criticized the Malawi government for its inaction on human rights violations, particularly regarding healthcare and minority rights. Despite growing concerns about the allocation of resources for post-abortion care services, the government has failed to address the issue.

Investigations have revealed a complex situation where resources are being misused or embezzled, and corruption within the healthcare system is rampant. The proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill, drafted in 2014, aims to address the high rates of unsafe abortions and maternal mortality. However, it has yet to be passed by Parliament.

“Continued delay in passing the Safe Abortion Bill by the Parliament could potentially reduce the burden on the health budget, highlighting the need for policy reforms to optimize resource allocation,” reads part of the proposed termination of pregnancy Bill.

Dr. Mathews Ngwale, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on health, has expressed his committee’s readiness to support the bill if presented in Parliament. “We are ready to support the bill if it is presented in Parliament,” he said.

Law scholar Dr. Ngeyi Kanyongolo emphasizes the need for policy reforms to optimize resource allocation and address the physical and psychological complications that come with unsafe abortion and unplanned pregnancies. “The abortion law in its current state is harsh and needs to be amended. Think of children who are being sexually molested and ending up being pregnant, they are not only robbed of their childhood but also face labor complications because they aren’t mature for childbearing,” he said.

CSOs, including the Youth and Society (YAS) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), have criticized the government for its slow progress on human rights issues, particularly affecting children, women, and the elderly. They argue that the government’s inaction is perpetuating impunity and victimization.

“Almost everything is chaotic due to poor management since efficiency can’t be met, the elderly women and physically challenged are victimized in various ways, the formulation of podium laws are some of the clear demonstrations of continued impunity at the expense of public sector reforms,” said Charles Kajoloweka, leader of YAS.

Similarly, the government of Malawi has been sitting on the issues of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people, who continue to face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female expressions of same-sex sexual activity are illegal within the nation, with convictions potentially leading to up to 14 years imprisonment, with or without corporal punishment for men, and 5 years imprisonment for women.

Political commentator George Phiri has urged the government to take decisive action on issues of national importance, rather than burdening citizens with the responsibility. “The government should be able to make tough decisions without any hesitations,” he said.

President Lazarus Chakwera has promised to let Malawians decide on the way forward regarding the legalization of homosexuality and safe abortion for women and girls. However, progress has been slow, and advocates are pushing for the bills to be tabled in Parliament to secure justice in a secular nation like Malawi.

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