The Center for Reproductive Rights issued the following last week:
02.26.15 - (PRESS
The retrial of Nirmala
Thapa, a 24-year old Nepalese migrant worker who was arrested alongside her
doctor in a clinic raid and found guilty of obtaining an illegal abortion,
starts today in the Penang High Court in Malaysia.
Court Judicial Commissioner Nordin Hassan overturned Nirmala’s conviction in
January after he discovered she was charged and convicted without a Nepali
interpreter and determined she was unable to understand the full consequences
of her initial guilty plea.
1989, abortion in Malaysia has been legal in circumstances when a qualified
doctor considers the “continuance of the pregnancy” to pose a “risk of injury
to the mental or physical health of the woman, greater than if the pregnancy
were terminated.” Nirmala is the first woman to be charged and convicted for an
“illegal” abortion since 1989.
Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive
women deserve the same reproductive health care as every other woman in
Malaysia, and Nirmala was unfairly targeted.
Nirmala’s conviction is upheld, it will set a dangerous precedent for the
harassment and unlawful imprisonment of any woman in Malaysia who obtains legal
urge the Malaysian judicial authorities together with the Ministry of Health to
work quickly to reverse the unjust and discriminatory charges against Nirmala
and to set her free.”
October 2014, Nirmala, who was six weeks pregnant at the time, went to a
polyclinic in Taman Ciku, Bukit Mertajam seeking a legal abortion. Nirmala was
an operator at a Sony factory and, because she was a migrant worker, the
pregnancy put her job security at risk. The doctor considered the mental trauma
associated with the risks of Nirmala losing her job, having to pay compensation
to her employer, and being sent back home if found pregnant—and decided she was
legally justified to have a termination. While in the recovery room post
procedure, officials from the Malaysian Ministry of Health entered the clinic
and arrested both Nirmala and her doctor.
Bukit Mertajam Sessions Court charged and convicted Nirmala in November with
“conducting an act to prevent a child from being born alive without the
intention of saving her own life as a mother,” under section 315 of the
country’s Penal Code. Soon after, she filed an appeal in the Penang High Court
which was granted by High Court Commissioner Nordin Hassan. Nirmala is
currently out of prison on bail and staying at a migrant workers shelter.
application of section 315 for terminating an early non-viable pregnancy before
22 weeks is unprecedented in Malaysia. The human rights bodies that oversee
states’ compliance with the international treaties that have been signed and
ratified by Malaysia have recognized the right to safe and legal abortion as a
human right. Nirmala’s rights have been violated under both Malaysian law and
international law and justice demands that the Penang High Court accord full
protection to the rights of all women in Malaysia to reproductive health care
without stigma and criminal punishment.
Center for Reproductive Rights has built a significant presence throughout Asia
with major initiatives such as the South Asia Reproductive Justice and
Accountability Initiative that focuses on promoting the use of the law and
legal strategies to protect and advance women’s reproductive rights in the
region. The Center—which opened a Nepal office in 2012—has conducted legal research, built local
capacity and undertaken advocacy at the UN in relation to numerous countries in
the center for reproductive rights