IN April 2008, staff at Gammams Water Care Works in Windhoek estimated that they discover an average of 13 bodies of newborn babies each month in human waste flushed down toilets. These damning statistics were tabled in the report on the motion of baby dumping in Namibia in the National Assembly on Tuesday. In terms of the findings of this report, the problem of baby dumping “is a significant one”. Concealment of birth cases reported in the country rose by about 283 per cent from 2003 to 2007 – from 6 to 23 reported cases.
During 2004, 13 cases were reported, while 17 and 15 cases were brought to the Police’s attention in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The report, tabled by Elia Kaiyamo, was compiled by the parliamentary standing committee on human resources, social and community development. Various stakeholders, including the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), the Women and Child Protection Unit of the Police, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Unicef and Women Solidarity met twice during 2009 to deliberate on how to tackle the problem.
One of the obstacles that the committee identified is that it is difficult to estimate the true extent of infanticide and baby dumping in Namibia, as such cases often go unreported. “However, Police statistics and information suggest that the problem is a significant one. An investigation of case law on infanticide indicates that charges of murdering a newborn infant are usually combined with charges of concealment of birth,” the report states. It was further established that the reasons for baby dumping cannot be attributed to a single factor.
Reasons that were cited include tradition, as some young women fear rejection by their parents or the community if they are found to have had a baby outside marriage; rejection by a partner and the accompanying economic vulnerability. Furthermore, the committee found, a sex worker who must care for and breastfeed an infant will not be able to carry on working immediately and might opt to dump her baby. A lack of knowledge about the possibilities of foster care and adoption, HIV-AIDS and a fear of having to leave school might also be incentives for baby dumping.
The committee recommended that steps “to prevent unwanted and teenage pregnancies” should be encouraged. Additionally, boys and men ought to be taught “to take greater responsibility for their children”, and community protection systems should be strengthened and “non-judgemental support” provided to pregnant women. The committee also suggested a revision of the policy on pregnancy among schoolgirls and taking “a supportive approach instead of a punitive one so that schoolgirl mothers and fathers get help to complete their studies and thus have no motivation to try and conceal their pregnancies”