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SINGAPORE, Nov 5 — A 29-year-old Indonesian domestic worker was jailed five months today for abandoning her newborn child in a recycling bin outside a landed home at Tai Keng Gardens earlier this year.
She claimed that she had no intention of hurting the boy and hoped a passer-by would find him.
She pleaded guilty to one charge of exposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years old and cannot be named to protect her son’s identity.
In mid-May this year, she discovered that she was pregnant and initially took pills to abort the baby but they did not work, the court heard.
Her lawyer, Anand Nalachandran, said that she came to Singapore in 2018 and had a relationship with a Bangladeshi man. They broke up earlier this year before she discovered she was pregnant, but she did not know where to seek help.
While in her employer’s home on July 27, she felt contractions coming on and gave birth to the baby boy in a toilet at 1pm. The child was full-term and weighed about 2.8kg.
When the baby cried loudly, she covered his mouth with her hand but did not hurt him.
She cut the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, cleaned him, wrapped him in a white towel and put him in a shopping bag after giving him clean water to drink.
At about 5pm, she left the house with the baby as she was afraid her employer, who had returned at 2pm, would hear his cries.
She walked for about 15 minutes before deciding to put the baby in a blue recycling bin outside the Tai Keng Gardens home, located near Upper Paya Lebar Road.
She chose the bin at random, checking that it was empty apart from newspapers. She partially closed the lid, wedging a small stone in between to give him some air.
When the owner of the home where the bin was went out to smoke at about 7.45pm, he heard a faint sound coming from there or nearby bushes.
Other family members who also came out soon returned to retrieve towels and clothes, as they suspected that there was an infant in the bin.
When they opened the shopping bag, they spotted the baby with the towel covering his face. They called the police and took him out of the bin.
The family’s domestic worker had earlier checked on the plants and rubbish bin at 6pm, while the owner’s wife walked past the bins at 6.45pm. Neither noticed anything amiss.
The baby was taken to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital at about 8pm where he was found to be in a stable condition with no visible injuries.
His mother was arrested on July 29 and has been in remand since the following day.
Atypical and abnormal behaviour: lawyer
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tin Shu Min sought six to eight months’ jail, saying that the woman had taken steps to lower the risk of suffocation but that the baby was “extremely vulnerable and wholly dependent” on his mother for protection.
In mitigation, Nalachandran, who was assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, urged the court to consider the domestic worker’s circumstances.
“These were clearly distressing circumstances. Her behaviour can only be described as atypical and abnormal. Since she was arrested and in remand, she has not received any psychiatric treatment,” the lawyer said.
After finding out that she was pregnant, she confided only in fellow domestic workers. She was concerned that if she told her employer, her work pass would be revoked and she would be sent home.
The baby is “well and unharmed”, the lawyer added.
He said that the woman will be 30 years old in two weeks’ time. “She hopes she gets this opportunity to move forward.”
District Judge Shaifuddin Saruwan responded: “Her actions after giving birth — we cannot judge her actions as if it were similar to a normal person. I understand that and I will take that into account.”
The woman could have been jailed up to seven years or fined, or both. — TODAY