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Parliament passes Gender Bill

Members of Parliament on Wednesday unanimously passed the Gender Equality Bill into law, which seeks, among other things, to empower women to have the right to choose to have a child or not.

The bill was the first to be passed under the current sitting of Parliament after the MPs unanimously voted for it, prompting Gender Minister Anita Kalinde to praise the MPs for empowering women.

She said, contrary to some fears, the bill seeks to promote family planning and is part of affirmative action government is undertaking to reverse historical challenges such as discrimination against women.

But despite the majority of MPs overwhelmingly supporting the bill, some MPs said the bill will legalise abortion in the country.

DPP MP Wictor Sajeni said the bill’s section on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights promotes abortion which is illegal in the country.

Sajeni said the bill was welcome, but said the issue of abortion cannot be supported and called upon government to remove the part.

“Sexual reproduction is already supported by other laws and initiatives and we cannot accept the legitimisation of this immoral act,” said Sajeni.

Other MPs also expressed reservations on the sexual reproduction, noting that similar concerns were raised during consultation period, but said the bill was carefully worded to avoid controversy while achieving the same purpose.

Chrispine Sibande, National Coordinator for Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortions, hailed the passing of the bill.

“This is a very progressive bill in terms achieving real gender equality. It is also very significant in terms of promoting and protecting women’s rights.

“For the first time in Malawi, we have, in very substantive manner recognised that every person has a right to adequate sexual and reproductive health including the right to access sexual and reproductive health services and the right to choose whether or not to have a child. We are among champions in the world where we can walk shoulders high telling the world that gender is entrenched in the law in our country,” Sibande said.

He said Malawi will shine at this year’s 57th Session on Status of Women, which starts from March.

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