Nepali gets retrial for ‘illegal’ abortion

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Feb 26, 2015-

Nirmala Thapa, a migrant worker in Malaysia, is being retried at the Penang High Court for getting an illegal abortion. The retrial began on Thursday.

The 24-year-old, who worked as an operator at a Sony factory, terminated her six-week pregnancy in October 2014. She was arrested along with her doctor, while she was recovering post-operation at a polyclinic in Taman Ciku, Bukit Mertajam.

Abortion is allowed in Malaysia since 1989 but only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or her physical and mental health. Thapa’s doctor considered the abortion legal, as Thapa would have to quit her job and go back home if found pregnant.

When the Bukit Mertajam Sessions Court found Thapa guilty of illegal abortion in November last year, she became the first woman to be convicted of the offence since the change in laws.

Thapa was sentenced to a year in prison but has since been out on bail and living at a migrant workers’ shelter. After Thapa filed an appeal against the verdict, Penang High Court Judicial Commissioner Nordin Hassan overturned the conviction. Hassan discovered that she did not have a Nepali interpreter during the legal proceedings.

Responding to the start of the retrial, Mellisa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said that if Thapa’s conviction is upheld, it would set a dangerous precedent for the harassment and unlawful imprisonment of any woman in Malaysia who obtains legal abortion care. The Nepali Embassy in Malaysia has been under fire for failing to intervene on Thapa’s behalf.

“We send a woman to a country that does not respect a woman’s reproductive rights. To begin with, Malaysia does not allow in a pregnant migrant worker. If she does get pregnant in the country, she cannot deliver the baby there. And if the pregnant chooses abortion over unsafe delivery or to return home, Malaysia

penalises her. Nepal should urge the Malaysian government to revoke the discriminatory charges,” said Sapana Pradhan Malla, a woman rights activist.

Published: 27-02-2015 08:37

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