THE Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has expressed concern over the recent amendments to the Terengganu state Shariah laws that criminalises pregnancy and childbirth out of wedlock for Muslim women.
The association said out of wedlock pregnancies and childbirths often arise from unplanned pregnancies among young adults or adolescents due to the lack of education and access to reproductive health services.
The dire consequences of unplanned pregnancies range from septic abortions, baby dumping, preterm labour, maternal and neonatal morbidity including deaths, among others.
“The current climate of fear and stigmatisation of unwed mothers had already resulted in many negative consequences for many involved such as school dropouts, stopping work, poverty, domestic violence and ill health, both physically and mentally,” said MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai.
He said global data and research have indicated that punitive measures are ineffective in reducing such pregnancies, and that punitive actions would only lead to negative consequences, including unsafe pregnancies and childbirths which could result in “permanent harm” to a person’s health.
According to the amended law, Muslim women in the state found guilty under the law may be jailed or fined up to RM3,000 or both.
Dr Muruga said Malaysia recorded one of the highest maternal mortality rates in its history in 2021, with 68.2 per 100,000 births and 100 babies dumped.
He also said across the world, the implementation of comprehensive sexual education with access to reproductive health services had been shown to not only decrease unplanned pregnancies but also the reduction in sexually-transmitted diseases as well as incidences of sexual activity among young people.
“We urge and appeal to all authorities and lawmakers concerned to implement what had been scientifically shown to be effective and to approach this life changing issue for women, girls, families, communities and the nation with compassion and to place health as the utmost priority,” Dr Muruga said. – Dec 6, 2022
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