GEORGE TOWN, May 12 — Penang executive councillor Chong Eng today suggested that the biological fathers in cases of baby dumping be prosecuted along with the mothers.
The Penang women, family and community development committee chairman said this was because the men contributed to the pregnancies that led to the babies being dumped after birth.
Though the Padang Lalang state assemblyman did not agree that charging the mothers for abandoning their babies will resolve the issue, she said it is time that men are also punished as they are equally responsible for the unwanted pregnancies.
“We also need more measures to resolve this issue because punishment and jailing these women will not serve social justice to the abandoned babies or resolve the whole issue,” she said.
She said the society must refrain from passing judgement against unwed mothers or stigmatising them, so as to not force them to hide their pregnancies or abandon their babies after birth.
She was commenting on the recent case of the twin baby girls who were found dead and wrapped in a towel in an abandoned cupboard at Macallum Street here.
According to Welfare Department statistics, there were a total of 472 abandoned baby cases in the country between 2005 and 2010.
Between 2011 and 2013, a total of 46 women were convicted for abandoning their babies, Chong said.
“Studies have shown that mothers abandoned their newborn for fear of repercussions and the inability to face the problem or the social stigma attached to unwed mothers,” Chong said at a press conference during break at the state legislative assembly today.
She believed that these women had merely made a “mistake” and should be given a chance and compassion to protect their welfare and that of the baby they were carrying.
Chong said there are several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Women’s Welfare Council and the Women’s Centre for Change that offer assistance to pregnant mothers who have nowhere to go.
State religious affairs committee chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said the Penang Islamic Religious Council (Maipp) together with the Penang Islamic Religious Department (Jaipp) also have facilities to handle such cases for Muslims.
“There are two care centres, one on the island and another on the mainland, run by NGOs on premises under Maipp to provide assistance to pregnant Muslim women who have nowhere to go,” he said.
He said these women do not have to worry about any repercussions as these centres are specifically there to help them resolve their problem.
“We want to resolve the problem and prevent more baby dumping cases, so it is more important to help and care for them and their babies first,” Abdul Malik said.
Chong added that there is no need to punish single women who became pregnant as they are already facing their own “punishment” when they had to seek help at these care centres out of desperation.