Baby dumping: Harsher punishment, comprehensive sexuality education needed

17 Feb 2022 09:06am
Photo for illustration purpose only
Photo for illustration purpose only

KUALA LUMPUR - Harsher punishment should be imposed on perpetrators of baby dumping as the grave social phenomenon continues unabated.

Senior Lecturer of Community Social Work, Department of Social and Development Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Dr Samir Muhazzab Amin said this is in light of the growing number of baby dumping cases each year.

He said that in Malaysia, the Penal Code (Act 302, Act 574), Child Act 2001 and Syariah Court (Act 355) are among the laws criminalising baby dumping.

The Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Amendment 1984) (Act 355) limits the power of the state government to enact provisions on syariah criminal offences.

"Laws should be effectively enforced to curb the social illness from becoming cancerous among our community today. For example, under the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment in Malaysia, there is still no provision for stiffer punishment for baby dumping offences.

"With the rise in cases each year, the time has come for a transformation of related laws especially syariah legislation in Malaysia, be undertaken. Heavier punishment should be imposed on the perpetrators involved either directly or indirectly in baby dumping cases," he told Bernama recently.

He said the maximum penalty for syariah criminal offences - 'khalwat' (close proximity), 'berzina' (unlawful sexual intercourse) or 'bersedudukan' (cohabit) - prescribed in the states' Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment are RM5,000, three years' imprisonment and six strokes of whipping. Syariah enforcement laws in Malaysia are more preventive in nature as baby dumping offences or concealment of births are not provided for under the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment.

"In the Penal Code context, heavier punishment is imposed. The Malaysian government has classified baby dumping cases as 'murder or attempted murder' which can be investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code (Act 574). Under Section 302, the punishment for murder is death. Attempted murder cases are investigated under Section 307 whereby the offender shall be liable to a maximum imprisonment of 20 years," he said.

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At the heart of the baby dumping issue, the suspect will cook up various cliche excuses such as she is pregnant out-of-wedlock, afraid of being reprimanded by her parents, having financial problems, ashamed or she is not ready.

The majority of couples reportedly involved in the heinous crime are youths, who indirectly reflect the increasingly serious social illness among the cluster.

According to Samir Muhazzab, with the advent of new technologies, a more comprehensive sexuality education should be in place to prevent the social maladies from rearing its ugly head.

"Data has shown that behind every case of baby dumping is an unplanned pregnancy, with the majority of perpetrators are youths. However, the community are often quick to point a finger at only one side. Oftimes, the unwed mother is labelled as the offender in the tragic incident.

"In actual fact, both sides are the root cause of the crime. However, whenever a premarital pregnancy takes place, the unwed mother has to finally face the ordeal all alone. Overwhelmed with fear and desperation, the young girl commits the act in the brink of insanity.

"This group does not have the psychological support from family members and friends due to the nagging fear of premarital pregnancies," he added.


As a solution, he opines that a more comprehensive sexuality education should be the way forward covering preventive aspects, the services and support needed when the problem occurs and corrective measures so that the social function of the youths involved will not be affected.

He said that not many are aware that the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provide baby hatches.

A baby hatch is a safe haven for babies and or newborns whose birth mother or parents can drop them off and be assured the babies will be safe and given proper care. These birth mothers or parents have decided they are not in a position to keep the baby.

The first baby hatch in Malaysia was launched by OrphanCare Foundation in 2010. He said the baby hatch concept was made popular by the western world since the 7th century to provide care of newborn babies who have been dumped or abandoned.

"Baby hatches are urgently needed to address the dumping issue in Malaysia due to the rise in cases. To date, nearly every state has a baby hatch, but not many are aware of its existence," he said.

Samir Muhazzab, who stressed that he had no intention of promoting premarital education or to stir confusion among the community, said as an academician, he felt that the educational and knowledge aspects should be given emphasis.

"We have to seek ways in preventing the social malaise from becoming cancerous," he said, adding that parents must be more proactive in dealing with the social issue especially problems related to baby dumping among youths.


According to Samir Muhazzab, parents must be more open to discussing sexuality education as well as emphasing on the limits to social interaction between males and females.

Parents, he added, should also take preventive measures by controlling their children's access to undesirable content on the internet and the social media.

He also said that it is imperative of the community to treat the problem with more urgency and play their roles more effectively in addressing the social menace that is still rife among youths.

"The role and responsibility to tackle the issue should not rest on the government alone. The community should take the bold step by reprimanding and educating youths who are involved in this social problem.

"The people should be the eyes and ears of the authorities to enable the latter to take swift preventive measures accordingly," he added.

From the psychological aspect, he said the unwed mother who committed the gruesome act on her own newborn child usually goes through a trauma, which could last for a protracted period, until her last breath.

"Among the common effects are depression, loss of self confidence, emotionally unstable and the inability to focus on their daily lives.

"Studies have shown that the baby dumping scourge can have adverse effects on the perpetrator and her family. They lose all their psychological and social support. Some of them drop out of school, marginalised by friends and family who cannot accept their wrongdoings," he said.


Meanwhile, Project Administrator at OrphanCare Foundation, Nur Azim Alia Mohamed Noor told Bernama, the unwed mother should give a thought to the fate of the baby she is carrying in the womb.

"My advice to this group of unwed mothers, go to the right channel. Look at your child, consider his or her future. We as adults know what to do with ourselves, but the baby? What about his or her future? "The onus is on the individual. It is better to feel guilty for the moment rather than regret for the entire life," she said, adding that the baby should be saved and allowed to grow up healthy rather than being dumped as more often than not, the baby will not survive.

Nur Azim Alia said, OrphanCare hopes that baby dumping cases in the country could be reduced with the setting up of baby hatches.

"Baby dumping is a serious social concern, despite the existence of baby hatches, such incidents still occur. The phenomenon still persists possibly because of the stigma about the baby hatch, hence people are afraid to come here (OrphanCare) and are not aware of this place," she said.

She said that many perceive the baby hatch as a baby dumping centre while in actual fact it functions as a safe haven for babies.

"No legal action will be taken against unwed mothers who leave their babies at the baby hatch. What's important is that the baby is safe. It also makes it easier for the baby to be registered as a citizen, provided that the relevant documents on the next of kin are available," she added.

Currently, there are three baby hatches operated by the foundation, namely in Petaling Jaya (Selangor), Johor Bahru (Johor) and Sungai Petani (Kedah).

Nur Azim Alia said to date, OrphanCare has saved 461 infants via its baby hatches including five early this year.

For further details on OrphanCare, please contact: Tel: 010-283 0528 or website: - BERNAMA