God bless the discarded babies

23 February 2018
How many unborn or newly born children must be thrown away before this country, begins to change laws, redirect resources for counselling and sex education, and upgrade children’s homes around the country? 
My ire about finding new-borns discarded like trash is not spared only for the government, but also for civil society.  Where are the churches and community groups in marching in the streets for the right to life?  If we discuss the need for legalized, safe abortions in Namibia, we hear moralistic postulating about how ending an unwanted early-stage pregnancy is a sin, but when we talk about tangible well-resourced programs to handle the tragedy of newly born infants that are being thrown away, there is silence from those same parts of our society.
We all should applaud and follow the example of Queen Martha Mwadinomho waKristian yaNelumbu of OuKwanyama who has called on to rather give their unwanted new-borns to her at the OuKwanyama palace.  This is someone trying make a difference.
I read a story this week about a young woman who had her baby in a Swakopmund hospital and then left without the child.  The police want to arrest her for child abandonment.  Can people get off their high moral horses on this particular case?
That woman in Swakopmund left the baby in a place where it could be cared for…at the very least, she kept her baby safe.  Better to leave the baby in a hospital than in a dark, dank bloody hole somewhere.  Change the child abandonment laws to reflect these kinds of cases.
The confused young women out there having babies they do not want must be encouraged to think about these infants as beautiful angels and not unsolvable problems.  Fear of being arrested merely drives the problem further underground.
If the government has money to buy tourism lodges for military bases, we certainly can find the money for this situation.
We all have read about babies found in shallow graves or on trash heaps and dumpsites, carried by dogs, left in the bush, in pit latrines, and other nightmarish ends.  We must never try to pretend this horrible thing is not happening.
None of us can know the different situations that brought each young birth mother to the desperate point of harming herself and her newly born child.  While these reasons are no excuse for taking a life, we need to stop emphasizing punishment and start paying attention to why this is happening. 
Is this baby the result of rape? Is this a girl who was in a committed relationship, then abandoned and now doesn’t know what to do?  Is this the result of a girl who had no idea that having fun with a boy (and feeling ‘wanted’, ‘loved,’ or ‘pretty’, for the first time in her life) meant a baby would come?  Is the infanticide the result of someone threatening the girl if she didn’t ‘get rid of it’? 
Why a new-born is killed by the birth mother’s negligence certainly doesn’t matter to the innocent child who had no say in how it was conceived.  But, it does matter when we search for solutions.
Consider this:
There are no immaculate conceptions going on here.  Men must not be allowed to zip up their pants, walk away and blame the birth mother for the whole thing.
Our sons, nephews, husbands, brothers and fathers are having sex with these young women.  It is all giggles, smiles, grunts and sweat when unprotected, illicit sex happens; but when a baby is the result, it’s not fun anymore.
I submit that men who also created that life are just as responsible for it as the birth mother is. 
Ministries involved must push for a change in the law about child abandonment.  Let us study what other countries are doing and adapt it to our needs.  The national dialogue on this is overdue.
We must not penalise a birth mother for anonymously surrendering her child in safe conditions.  By branding these particular young women criminals, we are sending the wrong message to others to hide their pregnancies and take drastic, secretive steps once the child is born. 
To the hypocritical puritans who assume that thinking about sex is a ticket to Hell:  you need to know that your own children and grandchildren are uninformed and having sex at ever younger ages.  Therefore, we need relevant, age-appropriate SEX EDUCATION in all schools so at least young women (and men) can have more information. 
Namibians need to uplift our girl-children and stop treating them only as house servants, field threshers, baby-minders and assistant cooks.  We need to VALUE them better at home, respect their ideas and thoughts, and encourage their achievements in all fields.
We need to castrate (figuratively speaking) men who sexually assault and molest our young queens.  It is not only a ‘silently dirty family secret’ when girls and women are raped in their own homes, it is that female’s entire future (and the future of any resulting baby) on the line.  These abused girls’ minds (and bodies) are being messed up and no one hears their silent screams until it is too late.
Let’s open 24/7/365 centres around the country staffed with trained counsellors and nurses, that can anonymously (if necessary) receive new born infants and assist young women just prior to labour.  We need to offer counselling to families and offer a safe haven for post-partum women in stress.
Donors, churches, individuals and corporate entities will help co-fund these facilities (if they are well-run); it can be a real Public/Private Partnership to save infants’ lives.
We must get a nation-wide pregnancy/relationship peer counselling program underway.  Young people listen to each other more than they listen to grey-haired, loud people like us. 
God bless the discarded children and help us find a way to hear their cries and do the right thing.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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