LAC calls for safe havens for babies.
Subject: Abandoned children (Social aspects)
Abandoned children (Laws, regulations and rules)
Desertion and non-support (Laws, regulations and rules)
Pregnancy, Unwanted (Management)
Family policy (Evaluation)
Pub Date: 10/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: Oct, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime; 200 Management dynamics Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation; Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 191779753
Full Text: The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) says Namibia should provide safe havens for the deposit and care of unwanted babies as one way of preventing the problem of baby dumping and infanticide.

Although statistics do not show that the problem has either increased or abated, the Gammams Water Treatment Works in Windhoek estimated earlier this year that about 13 bodies of newborn babies are found each month among the human waste flushed down toilets. In 2007 there were 23 reported cases of concealment of birth, according to police statistics quoted in a recently published monograph on baby dumping and infanticide produced by Dianne Hubbard, Coordinator of the LAC's Gender Research and Advocacy Project.

Law reform needed

According to Hubbard, providing safe havens to deposit babies would involve making changes to the country's legal framework to ensure that parents who leave their infants at designated places such as hospitals are not prosecuted for child abandonment. Other key changes proposed to the legislation are that forthcoming law reform on adoptions provide for abandonment as grounds for dispensing with parental consent to adopt, and ensure that no child is put up for adoption unless police reports of missing children are checked. Provisions implementing these measures should be included in the forthcoming Child Care and Protection Act, says the LAC.

Reasons for baby dumping

Although baby dumping and infanticide are crimes, Hubbard argues that the two also represent cries for help, especially from new mothers who may feel overwhelmed by the idea of parenthood. According to interviews conducted in northern Namibia on baby dumping, the fear of rejection by their parents and partners, lack of knowledge on foster care and adoption, fear by HIV-positive women that their children will be infected and die, and also the fear of having to leave school are reasons for baby dumping.

More support for pregnant women

The LAC recommends supporting women to prevent unwanted pregnancies, providing information about legal abortion, providing non-judgmental support for pregnant women, and increasing information and awareness for pregnant women. Other measures that could reduce baby dumping and infanticide include encouraging adoption and expanded fostering arrangements, revising policy on pregnancy among schoolgirls and also encouraging boys and men to take greater responsibility for their children.

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In most cases, society is judgmental of girls that fall pregnant, but Hubbard says pregnant women including young women need more support because their pregnancy may have resulted from an error of judgment, failure of contraception, coercion or rape.

"But once the pregnancy is a fact, the woman who is about to be a mother needs support from society instead of a judgmental approach," she says in the monograph, adding that no matter the circumstances of the pregnancy, the infant to be bom is blameless and deserves the best possible start in life.

The problem of baby dumping was extensively debated in the National Assembly last year and was referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social and Community Development, which initiated public hearings in April this year. The report of the hearings is still outstanding.

This story has been adapted with permission from an article by Wezi Tjaronda published in New Era on 8 July 2008.
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