“The Cabinet has decided that the Home Ministry through the police, investigate these cases as murder when a baby dies.”Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, on her ministry’s proposal to the cabinet. She said the cabinet agreed that drastic steps had to be taken to stop baby dumping.
Police will be asked to investigate, under Section 302 of the Penal Code, abandoned babies which have died. Under Section 302, the punishment for murder is death. Currently, baby dumping is investigated under other sections or under the Child Act for abandonment, concealment of birth by secret disposal of body, and infanticide, which stipulate jail terms and fines upon conviction.
Reactions to the cabinet decision have been negative, with some saying that capital punishment would not be a deterrent, and that sex education, counselling and support would be more effective. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said not all cases would be classified as murder, depending on police investigations. (Source: Murder charge for baby dumpers, The Star, 13 Aug 2010)
“Although it would take a long time and a lot of money to set up, a DNA bank remains the best solution to the baby-dumping menace.”Selangor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar, suggesting the usefulness of a DNA database to trace the parents of abandoned babies. He said many baby-dumping cases and other crimes remained unresolved because of a lack of information. (Source: CPO: DNA bank the answer to baby dumping, The Star, 22 Aug 2010)
Why not stop the stigma — provide baby care, sex education and safe haven laws — instead?
“Criminalising abandonment encourages someone, already in a terrible situation, to make a worse decision to hide a baby.International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia principal research fellow Dr Eric Winkel, on the classical position in Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh, which emphasises saving a baby’s life. Winkel argued that a child was at greater risk if baby dumping was criminalised.
“The classical fiqh does not try to legislate against promiscuity post facto, knowing that any such activity would harm the baby. In order to save the baby’s life, there can be no criminalisation of abandonment.
“There must be a safe and anonymous way a parent can hand over a baby to the care of someone else.”
He added that the desire to punish promiscuity must be a separate matter from ensuring the baby’s safety. His article also highlighted a few “baby hatch” programmes which have saved thousands of lives in various countries, including conservative societies. Youths should also be taught to “develop their own filters” to make good decisions and navigate the modern world with all its sexually charged messages, Winkel said. (Source: Focus on saving the life of the foundling, New Straits Times, 18 Aug 2010)
“Government can consider enacting a law to allow a parent to confidentially surrender a baby to any hospital emergency room or any designated place. The parent should also not be arrested or prosecuted.”Wanita Gerakan deputy chief Ng Siew Lai, urging the cabinet to consider ways to help unmarried mothers instead of punishing them. Ng noted that the US had such laws in response to the problem of unwanted pregnancies.
She also said the women’s wing disagreed with the cabinet’s decision that baby-dumping cases be investigated as murder. Instead, counselling, rehabilitation, and sex education were better solutions. (Source: Baby Dumping: Help and Not Punish the Mothers, Wanita Gerakan press statement, 19 Aug 2010)