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Moms who abandon babies ‘need compassion, not charges’

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When the body of a newborn boy was found on a pile of refuse in a field near Rustenburg recently, he became yet another victim in what researchers are calling a crisis that is “global in its reach but local in its expression”.

Neonaticide – killing a baby within 24 hours of birth – is rife in SA and, according to an international study just published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health, “accounts from women convicted of neonaticide emphasised the shock of an unintended pregnancy with which they had to cope alone”.

Birth too was “solitary”, and some of the women did not know they were pregnant until the moment of birth.

International studies have shown desperate mothers usually suffocate, strangle or drown the unwanted newborn before hiding the body.

In the wake of a case in Verulam, Durban, local experts have called on the public to understand that abandonment in a safe place is not the same as neonaticide or infanticide (killing of a baby under one year of age), and that systemic changes are urgently needed to address all three problems.

Lady Decency
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