Tue, September 14, 2010
World > Asia-Pacific

Baby dumping in Malaysia: causes and solutions

2010-09-14 06:12:57 GMT2010-09-14 14:12:57 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia is grappling with the rising cases of abandoned babies, "forcing" the Malaysian police to investigate baby-dumping cases under the Malaysian Penal Code for murder or attempt murder.

The Malaysian public blame premarital sex on the over-exposure to sexually-liberal western culture, while the Malaysian government considers including sex education in school syllabus.

Experts, on the other hand, say the first step to curb the rising trend is to start educating the young about their choices.

Linda became pregnant when she was just about to graduate from high school.

Not knowing what to do, the 20-year-old was devastated as her parents wanted her pregnancy to remain a secret.

But later she found the Kewaja Rehabilitation centre, a women's shelter in Kuala Lumpur -- which has now become her temporary home until she is due in October this year.

Pre-marital sex and having a child out of wedlock is deemed deeply shameful in Malaysia -- a Muslim majority country.

They are not only regarded as a sin, but may also be a punishable crime.

Muslim couples found guilty of fornicating could be fined up to thousands of U.S. dollars, jailed or caned.

Linda was fortunate to have sought help from a shelter.

But in a society where abortion is prohibited, many girls who share her experience are left stranded and eventually choose to abandon their babies.

This year alone, the Malaysian police have discovered 65 abandoned infants, most of them dead by the time they were found.

They were left in rubbish bins, on doorsteps and on the streets, prompting the government to consider treating these cases as murder or attempted murder.

Dr. Meriam Omar Din, a psychology counsellor at the International Islam University in Kuala Lumpur believes that cultural stigma that emphasizes abstinence is the main reason why pregnant girls are so eager to hide their pregnancy.

"What they are doing is against the value of the family. It is like it is a mistake. They become desperate, perhaps they cannot see the right person who can help them find the solution," Meriam said in an interview with Xinhua.

"By the time they star thinking, the baby is out. That is the reason why they would rather take the risk then to be rejected by the family.

"In our religion, of course having sex (before marriage) is wrong, but throwing away a baby is worse. So I think throwing a baby is no longer caused by religious factor but cultural factor," Meriam added.

She said the society's tendency to blame teenage pregnancy on women rather than men -- could also be a contributing factor to the rising cases of abandoned babies.

"The woman has to make the decision alone, and they do not have anyone to turn to and the man by then is not there anymore. To them, it is their fault because they are pregnant. The man does not want to get married with them.

"If the embarrassment is one factor, if the man still stays and is willing to get married, I do not think they will throw the baby, " said Meriam.

Women's shelters like the Kewaja Rehabilitation Centre are havens for many desperate young girls who are pregnant, helping them recover psychologically and physically while equipping them with skills that could get them a job after delivering a child.

These shelters protect them momentarily from relatives and friends.

Meanwhile, religious bodies in Malaysia have also geared up to conduct frequent checks on dormitories and hotel rooms against illicit sexual activities.

And the Malaysian government is now contemplating on teaching sex education in school -- a much debated move for parents who fear it would promote sexual behaviors at a young age.

Malaysians are struggling to curb teenage pregnancies and stop more babies from being abandoned.

It is hard to find the perfect solution that everyone agrees on, but experts are now suggesting that it is about time that they stop telling young people what not to do, and instead educating them on how to make the right choices.

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