The Gender Bill, which was passed into law on Wednesday, has drawn mixed views with a legal activist doubting that it legalises abortion.
Lawyer Justin Dzonzi has said the newly passed Gender Bill does not legalise abortion, but only protects women.
His view is contrary to Members of Parliament who said the wording in the bill on sexual reproduction is sugar-coated, but achieves the same purpose of legalising abortion.
Part VI 19.-(1) (e) of the bill states: “Every person has a right to adequate sexual and reproductive health, which includes the right to choose the number of children and when to bear those children,” a section which some people have interpreted as allowing women to terminate pregnancy when they feel like the time they have conceived is not right.
However, Dzonzi said yesterday that the bill does not make abortion legal but gives women the right choice on when to conceive particularly from undue social pressure.
“My personal view is that it has nothing to do with legalising abortion. When you put it within a social context, most of the times a couple does not have exclusive choice of when to have a child. It is sometimes the family that pushes them to have children. Now the law is giving them the power to decide against this,” he said.
He, however, said the bill should have made a provision on what to do with pregnancies that come by accident or from cases of rape.
“The gap which is there is that they could have made a provision to protect the women when it comes to accidental pregnancies that may be due to cases like rape. The law should have made a provision dealing with that,” Dzonzi said.
Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) has reiterated its stance that abortion is never allowed in the church.
MCC’s Public Relations Officer Mtheto Lungu said the church holds that life is sacred and that abortion is killing.
“We still maintain our stand as a church that abortion is not allowed. Children must be born in a family and nowhere else. You do not control birth by abortion. The moment one conceives that is when life begins; abortion is killing,” Lungu said.
Some of the critical points in the bill are that it gives a mandatory quota system in both public education and employment which gives either sex a minimum of 40 percent and a maximum of 60 percent.
“The Government shall take active measures to ensure ‘the enrollment at tertiary education institutions of either sex to a minimum of forty per cent (40%) and a maximum of sixty percent (60 %) of students.
“Not withstanding anything contained in the Public Service Act and subject to subsection (2), an appointing or recruiting authority in the public service shall appoint no less than forty per cent (40%) and no more than sixty per,” reads Part 5(16) and Part IV(11)(1), respectively.