Born to be abandoned and left to chance

The baby hatch at OrphanCARE in Kampung Tengku, Petaling Jaya. ― Malay Mail pic
The baby hatch at OrphanCARE in Kampung Tengku, Petaling Jaya. ― Malay Mail pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — A baby is found abandoned in the country every four days based on statistics acquired from the police over five years but the figure could be much higher.

Dr Salmi Razali, a psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Monash University, arrived at the figure after conducting a study, titled “Estimated and Inferred Infanticide and Infant Abandonment Rates for Malaysia”, using police statistics from 2007 to 2011.

“I have to stress the statistics we’ve got from the police are a small portion of what has been happening. Because of limitations, we could not calculate the actual rate. Not all abandoned babies are found, you know,” she told Malay Mail.

Dr Salmi said that based on the statistics, the estimated rate of child abandonment was increasing.

“For every 100,000 live births, there is an estimated 16.33 babies found abandoned illegally in 2011, compared to 13.06 babies in 2007,” she said.

“In the same period, the infanticide rate because of abandonment also increased.”

She said the calculations did not include the number of aborted foetuses found.

Dr Salmi presented her research at the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect here last week.

She said the babies were found alive or dead depending on the way they were dumped or the location itself.

“Most of the parents abandoned their babies in the vicinity of their own houses, at 22 per cent of the total number of cases over the five years,” she said.

Other places where abandoned babies had been found were roadsides and garbage areas (nine per cent), places of worship and rivers, ponds and beaches (seven per cent), bushes and toilets and sewers (six per cent) and schools (one per cent).

Babies found at hidden places were usually dead.

“Those who were placed in safe areas where the perpetrators want the babies to be found were, of course, found alive and well. Some even bundle the babies in thick blankets to keep them warm,” she said.

She said the “shadowy nature” of the act usually made it harder to trace the perpetrator.

“Only 12.7 per cent of the perpetrators are identified and caught. Most worrying is that, more than 40 per cent of them are students, followed by those in non-professional occupations and those who are unemployed,” she said.

Dr Salmi said most of those who were caught were the mothers, followed by the fathers and some grandparents, too.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Karim said the number of babies abandoned fluctuated each year.

“It does not necessarily mean the number of cases is increasing,” she told Malay Mail.

Rohani said the ministry was doing its best to prevent babies from being abandoned, and it realised the need to help girls with unwanted pregnancies. 

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