Friday, August 28, 2009

In Zambia, photos of childbirth spark controversy

An editor sent officials photos that her newspaper received of a woman giving birth to a stillborn child outside a hospital during a nurses strike. The editor could face jail, accused of distributing porn.

The photograph is a testament to human suffering, so sad you can't look at it twice. Or it's shocking pornography. In Zambia, that's a matter of very contentious debate.

A woman lies on the ground in the image, midway through delivering a baby. The infant, born feet first, is dead from suffocation, the head not yet out of the womb.

The photograph was one of three taken in June by the woman's husband outside a hospital in Lusaka, the capital, during a prolonged nurses strike. The mother had already been turned away by two clinics and couldn't get care at the hospital.

When the news editor of the independent Zambian daily the Post, Chansa Kabwela, looked at the photograph of the dead child, she wanted to cry.

The paper decided all three photos were too shocking to be published, so Kabwela sent them to Zambia's vice president, health minister, secretary to the Cabinet and two women's advocacy organizations. For that, the 29-year-old editor was charged with circulating pornography and faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Her trial was to resume today and is expected to end Sept. 8.