Parliament yesterday removed from its Order Paper a motion to facilitate the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in a move activists have interpreted as a tactical way to block the Bill that has sparked controversy.
The activists, mostly youth who staged a protest outside Parliament Building in Lilongwe, vented their anger on the Women Caucus of Parliament over its alleged failure to champion the cause.
Despite the changes that removed the motion from the day’s schedule, Chiradzulu West member of Parliament (MP) Matthews Ngwale (independent), who was expected to move the motion to facilitate tabling of the private member’s Bill, said in an interview after adjournment that he will not relent.
He said there is still room to have the motion presented in the House during the current Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting of Parliament.
When all appeared to be set for the motion, one MP from the opposition, to which Ngwale belongs, proposed that during the afternoon the House should focus on government business. However, some MPs from the opposition benches were overheard shouting that they wanted the motion tabled.
Thursdays are designated as private members’ days when legislators originate business for consideration either in form of motions or bills.
Efforts to have the motion tabled failed as no MP supported the question put on the floor. The hopes of having the motion tabled were dampened further by the circulation of a supplementary Order Paper—an outline of business to be tackled on a particular day in Pa r l i a m e n t — w h i c h excluded the motion.
During debate on a Public Accounts Committee of Parliament report, Mwanza Central MP Nicholas Dausi (Democratic Progressive Party) appealed to the House not to allow presentation of either the abortion motion or Bill. He said the Bill was evil and women must not be allowed to kill.
In his response, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said the motion was coming from the opposition benches; hence, urged Dausi and colleagues to resolve it among themselves.
In their protests outside Parliament Building, youth activists carried placards with messages supporting the motion and Bill to liberalise the restrictive abortion laws.
Some of the messages on the placards expressed disappointment with the alleged silence of the Women Caucus of Parliament whom they said should have been championing the motion.
Gender activist Emma Kaliya said most members of the Women Caucus have not shown interest to support the Bill.
Responding to concerns in a telephone interview last evening, Women Caucus chairperson Lonnie Chijere Phiri said the activists have a right to be angry after the motion failed to see the light of the day.
But she said the caucus was willing to support it.
“I understand the anger but we cannot pass judgement on women now when the motion was not presented. If presented, we will support it,” said Chijere Phiri.
Commenting on the matter, Senior Chief Lukwa of Kasungu, who was at Bingu International Convention Centre with other chiefs lobbying some ‘unidentified’ MPs to support the Bill, said he is disappointed that legislators are not interested to discuss the issue.