And yet another scare tactic has been prescribed for infanticide and baby-dumping. If the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has its way, the cases would be classified as murder and attempted murder respectively. This comes in light of yet another baby discovered dead floating inside a sewage tank in Jeli, Kelantan. While I am for sterner actions against those who dump and allow their baby to die, I still think this has to be a multi-pronged approach.
Condemning these young ladies to death, in my opinion, is not the answer. It is true that what they do is horrendous and unthinkable, but why are we stereotyping them as if what they do is purely out of fun with little regard for values? Meting out such punishments may pose as a deterrent for would-be reluctant mothers, but to blame them alone, having them to face the music for something that is the result of a shared communal responsibility.
If you drive around late at night, you will see that the roads are being roamed mostly by the underaged. At mamak shops, you see school-aged children happily puffing away on cigarettes or its unfiltered equivalent – the Shisha (Hookah to some) and this goes on until the wee hours of the morning. You see boys and girls riding motorbikes in housing estates at these hours without helmets and so on. My question is, where are the parents? Parents often leave their children to wander around at night aimlessly thinking “If I don’t see them do anything bad in front of me, then they must be well-behaved” only to cry foul when their kids get arrested or shot dead in the middle of the night. Then they’ll go, “I know my child well! They are not criminals!” If you know them well, why didn’t you know that they’ve been loitering around at night when they should be at home sleeping or studying?
The lack of supervision and guidance at home is one of the reasons children grow up experimenting things they should not. And in this case, only the parents have themselves to blame.
Many young mothers also come from government housing scheme flats – two-bedroomed flats that could hardly fit in more than 4 people at any one time, to cater for a family of at least six. There is little privacy at home and there are no facilities for the youths built anywhere near. The most they would usually have is a playground that is strewn with rubbish, broken slides, swings and see-saws; but nothing else for those above the age of 12. So, where do they go for entertainment? Hang around with kids their age, and soon one will bring a packet of cigarettes to be shared amongst them. This bad habit will soon progress into something else with gangsterism and drug-addiction at the apex of this evil pyramid. Being naturally anti-establishment, these youths will soon have their own territory and the girls, wanting to be part of the gang, become the gang’s ‘assets.’ You think this is a far-fetched theory? Back in 1991 I personally had to help a friend who was also my subordinate to look for his missing 14-year old daughter, who joined one of these gangs at one of the Bandar Tun Razak flats. He was stationed with me in Penang while his wife worked night-shifts in Balakong to supplement the family’s income. With the help of other members of my squadron, we rescued her from a budget hotel along Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang after four months of tracking her down. Was she thankful? No. She went missing again a month later.
A screwed-up approach in religion is also another culprit to be blamed. We are so bent on punishing people for the bad things they do that we tell them that God does the same, too. How often do we hear warnings such as, “God will cut off your hands if you steal” or “Cut off your tongue if you lie” or “He will hang you by your hair and burn you in hell for not wearing the tudung”? God is always portrayed as being God the Merciless. Whatever happened to God the Merciful? Can’t they instead say that God loves those who abide by His books and live the way of life that has been prescribed? Heaven and Hell are intangible. No one gives a damn about Heaven and Hell because they cannot see it. Before telling them about God’s love, show them love and guidance instead. We never show love to youngsters, that when they get pregnant, we shun them. If they get out of jail we shun them. We are more sensitive about what people would say about our family than placing importance on keeping the family unit together as one. Where are these people to go if they are not allowed to return to their own home?
How many of their children actually roam around stateless? It is so difficult to get a birth certificate because these children were being born out of wedlock and would be even more difficult for them to be registered in clinics, hospitals and schools. Why can’t the government think about this? A birth is a birth be it illegitimate or otherwise. Everyone is entitled to his/her birth certificate to show that they exist on this earth.
I cannot imagine when one of these mothers who have been living life unguided and is confused, is being condemned to death. I don’t think the first thing they wanted to do was to kill their child, but what other choices do they have other than to abandon them or kill them to stifle their cries? Have we ever given them a way out?
For every dead or abandoned baby that is discovered, for every young reluctant mothers we condemn, we destroy ourselves bit by bit.