PAKISTAN - INFANTICIDE INCREASING - MOSTLY GIRLS - PREFERENCE FOR BOYS - POVERTY
Late at night two months ago in a village in
“I cried myself; I had delivered the baby and she was perfectly healthy. But her parents had two daughters already, and felt they couldn’t afford another. The father, a labourer, earned only 4,000 rupees (US$46.50) a month, and I know those people ate just once a day,” Suriya Bibi, a `dai’ or traditional midwife from the village, told IRIN.
According to Anwar Kazmi, a spokesperson for the charitable Edhi Foundation, more and more bodies of infants are being collected from the streets. “I would say there has been a 100 percent increase over the past decade in the number of bodies of infants we find. Nine out of 10 are girls,” he told IRIN.
Girls are traditionally considered a `burden’ on families, with large sums frequently spent on their marriages. “People feel girls make no economic contribution to families,” Gulnar Tabassum, a women’s rights activist, told IRIN.
Kazmi said 1,210 bodies of dead infants were found last year - compared to 999 in 2009.
“The reasons are linked to mindset and to poverty,” he said. While the Edhi Foundation places cradles outside the orphanages it runs, and urges people to leave babies in them rather than kill them, only a few choose to do so.
According to the Foundation, about 200 babies are left each year in the 400 cradles it puts out nationwide with signs urging parents to use them.
Since children born out of wedlock in this conservative society are at greater risk of infanticide, the Foundation encourages the placing of such children with responsible surrogate parents.
“These children are innocent,” said Kazmi.
No accurate statistics
The Foundation also collects its data mainly from larger cities. It is unknown how many other deaths may be taking place in rural areas, or regions in the tribal areas and Balochistan and Sindh provinces where official figures show poverty is highest.
“The number of tiny babies we bury is increasing. In some cases
the neck or wrists have been slashed open,” said Muhammad Taufiq, a gravedigger
“I have had women who are pregnant come to me crying, because their husbands or in-laws say any baby born must be killed since they cannot raise it. I can do little to help, since abortion is illegal in the country, and for various cultural reasons the use of birth control is far too low, though many woman want to use it,” said gynaecologist Faiqa Siddiq who works at a charitable clinic for women.
“The mothers themselves wish to save the children but they also see the economic struggle of their families in a time of growing inflation,” she says.
According to data from the Federal Bureau of Statistics reported in the media, non-perishable food items saw price rises of 11.83 percent in the year to November 2011. Other percentage increases during the year were: tomatoes (42.02), spices (36.37), fresh fruit (29.62), betel leaves and nuts (24.56), condiments (23.50), milk (21.11), milk products (20.47), beverages (19.79), cooking oil (19.56), and meat (19.35).
“Times are becoming harder and harder. I have just given birth to my fourth child. We will do all we can to raise the children, and murder of course is an unforgivable sin, but sometimes I understand the despair of parents who do so,” said Safia Bibi, a washerwoman whose husband is an odd-job man.
The family earns a monthly income of Rs. 6,000 ($70). “The children go barefoot because just feeding them is next to impossible. We survive mainly on `roti’ [bread] and pickles,” she said.
----- Original Message -----
From: WUNRN ListServe
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Sent: Sunday, July 24, 2011 1:43 PM
Subject: Pakistan - Female Infanticide Rising
Website includes video.
PAKISTAN - KILLING OF INFANTS RISING - MOST ARE BABY GIRLS
By Reza Sayah, CNN
July 20, 2011
Karachi, Pakistan (CNN) -- At a morgue in Pakistan's largest city, five linen pouches -- each the size of a loaf of bread -- line the shelf of a walk-in freezer.
Wrapped inside each small sack is the corpse of an infant.
The babies are victims of what one relief agency calls Pakistan's worst unfolding tragedy: the killing and dumping of newborns.
"Sometimes they hang them, and sometimes they kill by the knife, and sometimes we find bodies which have been burned," said Anwar Kazmi, a manager at Edhi Foundation, Pakistan's largest privately run social service and relief agency.
Records at Edhi Foundation show that more than 1,200 newborns were killed and dumped in Pakistan last year, an increase of about 200 from the previous year.
Families view many of these children as illegitimate in a culture that condemns those born outside of marriage.
Statistics show that roughly 9 out of 10 are baby girls, which families may consider too costly to keep in a country where women frequently are not allowed to work.
The babies are usually just days old. Their corpses are often dumped in Karachi's sprawling garbage dumps, where they're sometimes mutilated by street animals, Kazmi said. He estimates that hundreds of baby corpses are never found.
The head of Edhi Foundation, 83-year-old Abdul Sattar Edhi, blames Pakistan's crippling poverty and a government that, for decades, has failed to educate the masses, generate jobs and provide citizens with the most basic needs.
"The distribution of resources by the government is wrong," Edhi said. "Many people don't pay taxes; there's no charity, and what you get from the government is all based on your wealth."
The Pakistani government has said it's improving education, but 55 million Pakistanis remain illiterate, according to the United Nations. And the government is billions of dollars in debt while entangled in a costly fight against the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups.
The killing of newborns gets little attention in Pakistan, and rarely are they investigated by a police force that's often poorly trained, lacks resources and stays focused on what's perceived to be more important crimes.
In many parts of the world, female infanticide is still practiced through direct violence but also by intentional neglect, according to the World Health Organization.
In some Asian countries, infanticide of girls is enough to skew the population figures in favor of males. The United Nations found, for example, that there are 130 boys to 100 girls in parts of Asia, especially in countries with extreme poverty and overpopulation such as China and India.
"Girls are seen as a burden, seen as a property which belongs to somebody else so people see that as a waste of money and the wasting of an education of a girl," said Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director of Plan India, a nonprofit for children. "Then when the girl gets married, the families have a big, heavy dowry. So that is one of the reasons here."
Dengle said awareness and education at the grass-roots level are ways to combat this practice.
"I think we really need to reach out to young people (to) create an awareness, to change attitudes and dispel the notion that having a boy is better than a girl," she said. "We launched this program 'Let Girls Be Born' -- that campaign is reaching out to masses using televisions, through newspapers and through (the) Internet. What we are trying to do is positive messaging on the girls. That girls aren't a sect; they are as good as boys."
In Pakistan, until things improve, the Edhi Foundation said, it will keep more than 300 cradles in front of its offices throughout Pakistan where families can drop off unwanted newborns. The foundation cares for them and puts them up for adoption, no questions asked.
"It's for awareness -- that please don't kill your innocent babies," Kazmi said.