LFL Press Statement
6 December 2014
Decision to imprison a woman for terminating a pregnancy is archaic and excessive
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the prosecution and subsequent one year imprisonment sentence imposed by the Bukit Mertajam Sessions Court against the Nepalese migrant worker for terminating her pregnancy. See “Nepalese worker first woman in Malaysia jailed for terminating pregnancy,” The Malaysian Insider, 5 December 2014.
The offences on “causing miscarriage” and “injuries to unborn children” are laid out in sections 312-315 of the Penal Code. However, these offences have rarely been enforced and have fallen into disuse especially in cases of voluntary abortion. Further, it is common knowledge that abortion is not unusual in Malaysia although technically unlawful unless falling within the exceptions provided under law.
We are therefore shocked and appalled that from the tens of thousands of abortions done annually, the Attorney General’s Chambers saw fit to prosecute a Nepali migrant worker, and to make matters worse the judge saw fit to imprison her for a year.
What benefit does society gain from her imprisonment? It is difficult to see any public interest being served other than the self-righteousness of the prosecutor and judge.
It would appear that this is the first case of its kind and it is incumbent upon the AG’s Chambers to explain their policy on prosecuting women who undergo abortion, failing which they may be open to accusation of inconsistency, selective prosecution and targeting vulnerable migrant women.
As a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the convention affirms a woman’s right to reproductive choice. The decision to imprison a woman for the choice of terminating a child is archaic and excessive, and it must be jettisoned for more progressive measures.
As a receiving country, Malaysia must accord migrant workers with proper standard of care, dignity and treatment and not go out of our way to make their lives unlivable.
We therefore call upon the AG’s Chambers to review the prosecution and conviction of the Nepalese national and to immediately file an appeal or revision to correct this blatant injustice.
Lawyers for Liberty
6 December 2014
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