The Star Malaysia

A cry for more hatches

An average of nine babies are being dumped every month nationwide. While this has led to calls for more baby hatches, the government wants to review measures to tackle baby dumping more effectivel­y.

- Stories by YUEN MEIKENG

TOSSED out the window, left by the roadside in a paper bag and put in a box covered with leaves.

And it’s not rubbish we’re talking about.

That’s how babies were dumped, in a few incidents that came to light recently.

Some 53 cases of baby dumping occurred between January and June this year, reveals the Women, Family and Community Developmen­t Ministry.

This means about nine babies were abandoned each month this year, and most were found dead.

From 2015 to June this year, the police recorded a total of 652 cases, and Selangor topped the list with the most incidents (139).

This is followed by Johor (83), Kuala Lumpur (70), Sabah (69) and Kedah (52), according to data from the Sexual, Women and Child Investigat­ions Division (D11) at Bukit Aman.

Of the total, 65% of the babies were found dead, says D11 assistant director Supt Siti Kamsiah Hassan.

“Most were found in housing areas, toilets, garbage disposal areas, sewerage systems and drains.

“These are common dumping grounds because there are no CCTV cameras, they are less frequented by the public and are easily accessible,” she tells Sunday Star.

Baby dumping is a long standing problem, and it’s a complex one.

Last month, an 18-year-old student who allegedly flung her newborn baby out of a 13th-floor apartment unit in George Town was charged with murder – an offence that carries the death sentence upon conviction.

However, some argue that the charge is too harsh, as many cases involve youths who lack support, sex education and awareness.

Some believe it’s time for more baby hatches to be set up, as a safe place for the little ones to be given up legally for adoption.

However, the Perak government has said it was not in favour of too many hatches, to avoid sending out a signal that it is encouragin­g baby dumping.

For the ministry, more effort is needed to study this move first before anything is decided. “Having baby hatches will enable interventi­on. It is a debatable measure, but it’s also sensible in preserving the rights and welfare of the baby.

“The ministry may need more feedback before registerin­g this effort as an alternativ­e in reducing the rise of the baby dumping cases,” says the ministry.

Currently, there are 10 baby hatches in Malaysia – three centres are operated by the OrphanCare Foundation in Petaling

Jaya, Johor Baru and

Sungai Petani, Kedah.

The other seven are operated in collaborat­ion with KPJ Hospitals at the group’s branches around the country.

To better tackle baby dumping, the ministry, through the Institut

Sosial Malaysia, will carry out a study to examine the effectiven­ess of existing programmes developed by the ministry.

“This will be done by reviewing states with the highest number of baby dumping cases,” the ministry adds.

Current efforts by the ministry include conducting sexual reproducti­ve health (SRH) awareness programmes for teenagers, counsellin­g services for pregnant girls and providing places of refuge for women who are pregnant out of wedlock to deliver their baby safely.

On youths lacking awareness about baby dumping, the ministry says ignorance is not an excuse for a crime, according to common law.

Infanticid­e, or an act that causes death to a newborn child, is punishable under Section 309B of the Penal Code with a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine.

“However, the mental status of the individual may be considered in the court ruling.

“The lack of legal literacy among adolescent­s is a contributo­r to this serious offence.

“The ministry has taken more initiative­s to include the legal consequenc­es of infanticid­e and sexual offences in our latest SRH module for adolescent­s called the Mekar Module, published this year.

“It is hoped that this module can be implemente­d by next year,” says the ministry.

One of the main reasons for baby dumping, as identified by the Social Welfare Department, is the lack of SRH knowledge among teens, leading to unprotecte­d sex and unwanted pregnancie­s.

“Some girls who became pregalso nant out of wedlock lack famiothers ly support, while were duped or given false promises of marriage by their boyfriends,” the ministry adds.

Baby dumping cases also occur because the girls were unaware of the help they could get from relorganis­ations. evant While this issue requires comprehens­ive action, the ministry says more prevenrath­er tive steps than recovery programmes should be designed to address this matter. “Thefocusis­to increase awareness prosuch grammes as SRH education, parenting, pre-marriage and counbe selling to implemente­d for teens and adults with necessary knowladdre­ss edge to the issue of baby dumping and unwanted pregaborti­on nancy.

“Since is illegal except on mediground­s, cal there is a need to educate teenand agers adults on the laws related to abortion and its offences,” it says. It’s also important to know where to get help if anyone iscaughtin­an unwanted pregnancy without support.

For this, the ministry says the public can get help from counsellor­s through its Talian Kasih 15999 hotline or WhatsApp number at 0192615 999. “Our registered counsellor­s can guide them on how to cope with the situation they are facing and also where they can get the appropriat­e help,” the ministry adds.

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