Opinion

Baby dumping: Blame someone before someone blames you!

Colin Boyd Shafer

Colin Boyd Shafer teaches social science at a college in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Aside from writing/ranting, he concentrates most of his time doing documentary photography, trying to create a dialogue around sensitive issues. You can follow his work at ‘Colinizing Photography’ on Facebook.

SEPT 7 — I am not an avid “Family Guy” viewer, but a good friend of mine is. The other day we were discussing how the show was recently un-banned in Malaysia, but is heavily censored.

Any curse word, or word that sounds like a curse word, is removed.  Most references to sex and violence are also omitted, which is why Astro can air a whole episode in less than 20 minutes.  What is really interesting though are the parts allowed through.  A case in point: they let the full “Prom Night Dumpster Baby” song play given the fact that “baby dumping” is without doubt a sensitive topic.

In Malaysia, 60 discarded babies have been recorded so far this year. When horrible things like this happen nobody likes to look in the mirror — especially when they think maybe they might have some stake in the issue.

Who should be looking in the mirror?

I think of the family that never teaches their son about the harms of alcohol and he ends up nose down in a river, or the family that fails to teach their daughter about her body only to find that she was touched in the wrong place by a forceful guest. You simply can’t be surprised when these things happen if you are not proactive in their prevention. The ignorant need guidance.

Given the fact that a whole Baby Dumping Unit has been created by the MCA , this must be a serious issue — one that shouldn’t be overlooked, but why would baby dumping be more common in a harmonious country like Malaysia? 

Provocative writer Deborah Loh of The Nut Graph gives a fantastic overview of all the arguments from authority that seem to be missing the truth by... a long shot! Here are what some of the self-proclaimed baby dumping experts have to say:

Let’s begin with a word from the wise: If you ever find something wrong in the world, blame porn. Right away, traditional conservative peoples will be on your side. Federal CID director Comm Datuk Seri Bakri Zinin cleverly did just that, blaming the over-abundance and accessibility of pornography today. I am wondering how he discovered this relationship? Did he have people watch hours of porn and ask them whether they felt compelled to dump babies? That is the best guess I can come up with.

Pornography which has been widely consumed by EVERY culture since humans figured out how to draw on caves, is not on the rise or fall. Since every society on earth consumes it, it would be silly to think that only Malaysia is seeing babies in dumpsters because of erotic images.

Romantic holidays like Valentines and New Years have also been blamed by the self-proclaimed baby dumping experts.  PAS Youth deputy chief Azman Shapawi reportedly said that free mixing between the sexes, which seemingly only happens on these holidays in his world, has led to more baby dumping. Obviously he doesn’t get out much.

Similarly, couples riding on vehicles together has also been blamed.  Mazlan Mohamad, director of the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Teachers’ Training Institute in Kuantan, Pahang, proactively prohibited trainee teachers from riding together. He says “If it’s just for dinner, then there’s no problem. But if dinner’s over and they’re still together alone in a car, then that is not right.” No word on how drastically his new rules have curbed baby dumping. I am trying to connect the dots, but really... logic prohibits me.

Others are blaming secular values and the lack of religious education.  Malaysian Muslim Lawyers’ Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said the reason why the majority of baby-dumping cases involved Malays was because there was no control on curbing immoral activities.

“They are doing this due to a lack of religious guidance and I consider this a curse from Allah,” Zainul reportedly said.

A curse from God? I just think it is ignorant and misinformed teenage girls with nobody who will really listen and not judge them. Thinking it is a curse from God won’t really help the problem, will it? Unless you just want to shun your cursed daughters? 

A lack of religious guidance? My sisters are both very secular thinkers, have no religious education, and I have no doubt they will both be very careful about who they have relations with. I also know that we can talk about what could happen and they know I will support them regardless. Just because someone has your unconditional support it does not mean they will abuse it. 

Some questions worth considering:

If your daughter:

•    gets pregnant to a person of another religion

•    gets pregnant to a person of another race

•    gets raped by a family member

•    makes a mistake and gets pregnant before marriage

Does she know that you will forgive her and always love her?

Is the average Malaysian family ready to handle this?

What needs to be combated is the idea of Illegitimate children and bringing shame to the family. In many traditional environments, these ideas reign supreme. Any and every child should feel as legitimate as the next. Growing up, I was taught about the consequences of sex, the need for continued communication between my parents and me.

I do not remember thinking negatively about my friends who only had a mom or a dad. That was common, and I had no interest in judging them based on their situation.

Reportedly in all Malaysian states, a child born out of wedlock to Muslim parents or who is adopted cannot get the normal Binti or Bin in their name. These “abnormals” receive the name Abdullah. This means that every person that encounters this child in the future can know of their parents’ “negative” marital situation at the time of their birth. This is completely unfair to an innocent child and it would be nice if this practice were changed.

The concept of “Illegitimacy” needs to be confronted from the top to bottom. Love is what a child needs whether it is from one parent or two: unconditional love. Tell your children you will love them no matter what. Accidents happen, and family helps you get through them.

Sex education is readily available and can be implemented whenever Malaysia is ready for it. Until then, parents should sit down with their kids and have “the talk.”

I know firsthand, from teaching a sex education lesson here in Malaysia, that teenagers have many questions that should not have to be asked by individuals at that age. If a parent or older sibling chooses to ignore this responsibility and their child ends up giving birth to a baby in a washroom, or “dumping it” you should accept some of the blame.

I never knew anyone in high school who had an abortion. I grew up in Canada, where it is legal. A friend here in Malaysia knows of a number of her friends who have had abortions. She grew up in Malaysia where abortion is illegal.

Legalising abortion could be part of the solution. People seem to get caught up with whether one is “for” abortion or “against” abortion. These positions don’t exist. Nobody likes abortion, but many are pro-choice recognising that it is a better alternative to unhappy and uncared for babies coming into this world.

Every country on earth has abortions taking place. It just depends whether you want to pretend it doesn’t exist and have unsafe black market abortions or whether you want to recognise that it will happen and provide safe and supportive centres where people can make this choice.. 

Criminalising baby dumping won’t help with the problem at large. This is a small band-aid on a full blown disease. These young women aren’t criminals and if ultimately we want to save babies’ lives this is not the best way to go about it.

Baby dumpers are scared, ignorant, and already in enough pain. A death sentence will end their suffering, but it won’t change the fact that a baby was killed. What needs to be concentrated on by all parties is the indirect ways dumping behaviour can be prevented. As stated by Haslina Yaacob of the All Women’s Action Society Malaysia (Awam) “create a safe environment where these people know they could go to — to be helped, listened to, understood and cared for.”

Talk to your daughters. Talk to your sons. Encourage safe sex. Encourage unconditional love and teach those around you that they are and will always be legitimate. 

These girls that dump their babies have long been dumped by the society they grew up in. Let’s change that.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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