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Zambian Journalist On Trial for "Obscene" Childbirth Photos

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In Zambia, the health workers are on strike. That’s not good for the people.

In response, journalist Chansa Kabwela sent two pictures of a woman giving breech birth to women’s rights groups, Zambia’s vice president, and health groups. They were graphic, so much so that Zambia’s The Post decided they were too obscene to publish.

But Kabwela was using these photos as an urgent message: End the strike! The woman had been turned away from two clinics where nurses were on strike, Her breech baby, seen in the photo, suffocated during childbirth. From the BBC:

The pictures are graphic. They show a woman in the process of giving birth to a baby in the breech position – when the baby’s legs come out first.

Its shoulders, legs and arms are visible, but the head has not yet been delivered.

This death apparently occurred outside the main hospital of the capital city, Lusaka. Doctors didn’t reach the laboring woman in time to save the baby.

Now, I’m not exactly cool with people perpetuating the myth that childbirth is inherently dangerous. And I’m not surprised that a newspaper wouldn’t publish photos of this or any birth in progress.

However, this journalist seemed to send these photos as an act of protest. To help the people. And she had apparently been given these pics by the woman’s husband, to raise awareness so that this tragedy didn’t happen to another family.

President Banda called the photos pornographic at a press conference, and Kabwela was immediately arrested. She told the New York Times:

The government deliberately decided to misunderstand my intention. I wanted them to see the suffering of the mother. Instead they called it pornography.

Not only did the president speak out against her, but one of the women’s rights groups turned against her, too. The chairwoman of the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Council said,

We have been extremely shocked and disgusted at the pictures you have circulated of a woman in childbirth. Not only is it a gross violation of the woman’s privacy and dignity but more so of the sanctity of human life.

Kabwela is charged with charged with distributing obscene material with intent to corrupt public morals. She faces five years in jail.

Her trial begins today. Outside the packed courtroom, protesters are showing support for the journalist, including,

Zambian artistes are with you Chansa Kabwela, labour is labour not pornography.

Well said.

Image: The Post via the BBC.

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Comments

  1. This is sad. And I can’t help but feel a twinge of bile rise up in my throat at the thought of what that poor mother went through. My son was breech until the last few weeks of pregnancy, but in the end everything worked out and I had him naturally with a midwife. I cannot imagine how heart-wrenching it must be to carry your baby for 9 months, only to be in labor, TURNED AWAY, and then have your infant die in birth. Incredibly sad.

  2. The mother was not able to reflect much on it all. She died too. Her husband gave permission for the photos to be released.

  3. That is horrible and horrifying. I hope that she didn’t get charged for trying to help the future. Families should never have to go through such horror then find that their situation is considered pornographic. My heart goes out to the entire family.

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