Compassionate approach must be adopted

THE Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia views with extreme concern the recent amendment to the Terengganu state syariah law that criminalises out-of-wedlock pregnancy and birth for Muslim women.

On record, many out-of-wedlock pregnancies or childbirths involve young women and even adolescents.

When punitive actions are imposed, especially the threat of jail or excessive fines, rather than education, the likelihood of increasing unintended negative consequences such as unsafe abortions, baby dumping, severe maternal health complications and even deaths increase proportionately.

Stigmatisation and isolation that often accompany the women or girl involved usually leads to her dropping out of school or work. Her mental and physical health and economic well-being may be severely impacted.

The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that women and girls are most affected by adversity, in particular those who are under-served, marginalised and come from lower socioeconomic communities.

Punitive regulations often place unbearable burden and harm on vulnerable women and girls.

Malaysia recorded one of its highest maternal mortality rate in 2021 at 68.2 per 100,000 live births, a rate last recorded nearly 40 years ago.

In line with Malaysia’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals for all girls and women to achieve a healthy life across all ages (SDG3), and to address discriminatory and harmful practices against them (SDG5), we appeal for a compassionate approach to be adopted, one that offers education and support to all women and girls in crisis, enhances their health and well-being, and improves their economic potential and self-sufficiency.

Education, community support, care and understanding remain key to tackling this critical reproductive issue, and we urge that the well-being of all women and girls be put on the centre stage of all policies and laws.


Council 2022/2023

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letters , syariah law , pregnancy , birth


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