There are few things more beautiful than the birth of a baby, the blessing of a tiny bundle of joy to fill a home with laughter and adoration. However, not every baby is born into easy circumstances, a warm home or loving families.
In 2021, baby dumping cases continued to be a widespread issue in Southeast Asia, with Malaysia recording the highest percentage in cases of baby dumpings1. Our country undoubtedly faces a severe and chronic problem with baby dumping, and this has been an ongoing social issue for several years. According to national statistics, an average of a hundred babies are found abandoned every year, and at least 10 babies were dumped every month in the past four years (2018-2021)2.
Where are abandoned babies usually found?
Abandoned infants, many just a few days old, have been discovered lifeless in rubbish bins, public toilets and even drains. At times, charred remains are found. Sadly, only a small number of abandoned babies survive. PDRM statistics show that from 2018 to 2021, the highest number of dumped baby sites were recorded in housing areas, with 178 cases, followed by plants (31), drains and sewerage sites (31), toilets (30) mosques and suraus (29), near shops, buildings and offices (26) and roadsides (21)2.
“Most of the suspects live on their own, away from their families. So when they get into relationships and get pregnant, they panic and resort to things like this.”Assistant Commissioner Siti Kamsiah Hassan
Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division principal assistant director3
And it’s not surprising that often, these babies’ families cannot be identified because no record of birth can be found. Sometimes, parents are young teenagers with no idea where to go or what to do. In other instances, accidental pregnancies leave young women struggling to find solutions to a child they are not prepared to raise.
Notes are occasionally left with a baby, either by mothers desperate for their child to find a good home or concerned relatives who assisted in delivery. But more often than not, abandoned babies are found without any thread connecting them to their birth family or history.
A challenge is the lack of education and awareness amongst Malaysian youth
One of the main causes of unwanted pregnancies and baby dumping, especially by teenage parents, is the lack of proper sexual health education in schools4.
It would not be a stretch to say that in Malaysia, many teenagers are unaware of the consequences of free sex, given the way sex is treated like a taboo topic in most schools and households in Malaysia5. This results in teenagers being careless and throwing caution to the wind, which is how most unwanted pregnancies come about. Sadly, infants born out of disregard for one’s own safety are the ones who suffer the most, for their parents either do not have the means to support them financially or fear the shame and judgement of the public eye.
What efforts are being taken to stop baby dumping, and how can you help?
In Malaysia, NGOs such as OrphanCare have doubled their efforts to save babies from a cruel fate with baby hatches, a safe option for babies and/or newborns where birth mothers or parents can anonymously drop them off and be assured the babies will be given proper care.
“We would also like to remind mothers and the public that placing a baby at OrphanCare does not mean she is abandoning the child. To us, it is an act to save the baby.”Riza Alwi
OrphanCare advocacy and communications manager6
>> Have open conversations at home
Parents can be more intentional about connecting with their children, and having open, honest conversations about sex at an appropriate age. Avoid condemning curiosity or questions about sex, conception and intimacy.
>> Advocate for age-appropriate and comprehensive sexual health education in schools
According to a 2015 survey backed by the Health Ministry, 35% of Malaysian female youth believed that having sex for the first time does not lead to a pregnancy5. Since then, the problem of unwanted teen pregnancies and baby dumping has only gotten worse and no effective action has been made to stop it.
>> Destigmatise pregnancy outside of marriage
Pregnancy is a scary thing, and it is not easy to navigate such a road on your own. Any mother needs emotional support during a pregnancy, especially from family members and healthcare professionals, and unwed mothers are not an exception. However, the stigma that’s attached to pregnancy out of wedlock makes it hard for them to approach people for help.
If we truly want to stop the problem of baby dumping, everyone — the authorities, social sector and public — must work together to build a better support system that prioritises the well-being of every mother and baby in our nation.
- Southeast Asia’s baby dumping problem, The ASEAN Post
- Baby dumping still rampant, Astro Awani
- In Malaysia, an average of nine babies reported abandoned in a month, half found dead, Malay Mail
- Poor sex education, social exclusion leading mums in Malaysia to abandon babies, Channel News Asia
- Comprehensive Sexuality Education for Malaysian Adolescents: How Far Have We Come?, ARROW
- Instead of dumping their newborns, mums in distress can place their babies in OrphanCare’s baby hatches, theSun
- Cover image: Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash