Nepalese Migrant Worker Free After Wrongful Imprisonment in Malaysia

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Nirmala Thape has been set free following a yearlong ordeal during which she was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned after having an abortion in Malaysia.

The 24-year-old migrant worker from Nepal had been arrested in the clinic where she had an abortion last October. According to an article in the Malay Mail Online, she was acquitted and discharged by the Bukit Mertajam Sessions Court on September 21, 2015.

Abortion has been legal in Malaysia since 1989 in circumstances when a qualified doctor considers the pregnancy to pose a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman. Nirmala’s doctor reported that he had considered the risks of her losing her job, having to pay compensation to her employer, and being sent back home if found pregnant, and he legally justified the abortion.

Dr. Choong Sim Poey of Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia said Nirmala is the first woman in Malaysia to be charged in court for having an abortion and that such a case was never prosecuted before. He also noted that about 90,000 abortions are conducted in Malaysia each year.

Nirmala’s case has generated significant interest from NGOs and the general public throughout the country, raising concern over women being criminalized for seeking abortion care and the importance of recognizing and protecting the reproductive rights of female migrant workers.