AUGUST 3 — Today 3rd of August is the official launch of the National Baby Dumping Prevention campaign by the Deputy PM, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah and to spread awareness about the problem as well as the Kasih Helpline for Pregnant women in crisis with an unwanted pregnancy.
24 hours earlier in Muar, a baby girl was found with the umbilical cord still attached, after she was abandoned in a factory. Luckily she was still alive and was taken to the hospital.
Every 3 days as we know a baby is dumped in Malaysia with the majority found dead or macerated.
For years, the Government is in denial, skirting the issue and only paying lip service to this Humanitarian Crisis.
It is indeed now very encouraging to note that the Pakatan Government in this very issue lead by Our Deputy PM Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah and her Deputy Minister YB Hannah Yeoh has courageously acknowledged the problem and is serious in tackling the issue.
The multiple meetings with stakeholders and NGOs to really understand the problem by the Ministry of Women, the launch of the Sexual education videos for the primary schoolers, the Campaign with Helpline numbers in toilets across highways are among the strategies that were boldly implemented.
However, in order to really decrease baby dumping, we need to bravely deal with the root cause.
Behind every baby dumped is an Unintended pregnancy. The prevention of such entails of course, critical health education to our young including sharing of pregnancy prevention methods.
Statistics from 2014 had shown that 4.8% of our teenagers are sexually active rising to 7.3% in 2017. Many of them do not use Contraceptives. By acknowledging the fact that sexual activity happens in the young irregardless of laws and allowing access to contraceptives for those who are already sexually active as a harm reduction measure goes a long way towards effective strategies. Malaysia criminalise consensual sex by anyone below 18 years old with the advent of the Sexual offence against children Act and mandates police report to be made by anyone with knowledge of such activities including healthcare professionals.
Legal amendments must be instituted to tackle these barriers if we are to see any reduction in teenage Unintended Pregnancies, abortions or baby dumping.
The pregnant teenage mother frequently faced the possibilities of persecution by various acts including religious laws and until we can amend the punitive environment that these teenage mothers are faced with, minimal gains will be achieved.
On the whole, society, communities, public and even those who are suppose to provide help stigmatise and discriminate against these mothers driving them to shame and secrecy.
Our social support for teenage mothers and teenage parents are far from ideal falling short of what's needed to prevent a repeat teenage pregnancy frequently.
Until and unless, a young person can freely and safely access:
1) Contraceptives if needed
2) sexual and reproductive health services
3) A non-punitive support system that allows them to carry on their Unplanned pregnancies
4) A non-judgemental community that embrace them when they are in trouble.
5) A legal framework that allows all the above to happen,
Then minimal gain can be achieved from the various stop gap measures that are being implemented.
For the first time, we have leaders and government who mean business but they must be supported by all of us the people to do more and to have the political will to continue implementing fundamental changes that allows us as society to mature and better protect our young.
*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.