Nepali Women Suffer in Jail for Abortion Despite Change to Law

( [email protected] ) Jun 28, 2003 04:08 PM EDT

Despite the government's legalization on abortion last year, almost 60 women are languishing in Nepalese jails on abortion charges, a women's rights group reported 25.

All abortions were illegal until September last year so the violators were sentenced to at least three years of prison life. Then the government introduced a law allowing women to stop unwanted pregnancies.

Sapana Malla Pradhan of the Forum of Women, Law and Development said "Our study shows that there are 59 women still in jail on charges of abortion."

"Although the law was passed, the government have ignored those women already serving the prison terms," she added and asked for amnesty for these women by filing a petition with King Gyanendra.

"We are hopeful the king will release these women on his birthday," Pradhan said. Usually the king has released some of prisoners to mark his birthday which is in July.

The new abortion law allows women to terminate pregnancies within the first 12 weeks, and 18 weeks if the pregnancy is from rape or incest.

Abortion was legalized in Nepal because hundreds of Nepalese women were dying every year from excessive bleeding and infections resulting from unsafe abortions. Nepal has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia, AP news reported. The World Health Organization has estimated the rate of maternal deaths in childbirth at 1,500 per 100,000 live births.