Infanticide Increasing in Pakistan

10/01/2012 - Reports of the murder and abandonment of infants are increasing as poverty-stricken parents become desperate.

According to reports by IRIN, the murder of infants, especially girls, has been on the rise in Pakistan. One organization interviewed by IRIN, the Edhi Foundation, claimed that infant murders have increased 100 over the past ten years, and that nine out of ten times the bodies recovered are girls.

Some women’s rights activists in the country claim that the statistics demonstrate how girls are traditionally considered a `burden’ on families, and are not seen as making any economic contribution.

In response to the crisis, some NGOs such as the Edhi Foundation have begun to run campaigns encouraging parents to merely abandon their infants instead.  The Edhi Foundations claims that 200 babies are left each year in the 400 cradles it puts out nationwide.

It is difficult to compile reliable statistics on infanticide in the country, as more deaths are reported to occur in rural areas which are usually the most impoverished.

While rural people make up two thirds of Pakistan’s population, they account for 90 per cent of the country’s poor people.

Those who suffer the most from rural poverty are small farmers with limited land and livestock ownership, landless farmers and especially women, who as a result of systemic gender discrimination, have little access to resources, services or assets of their own.

One of the main issues is also the fact that most women in Pakistan cannot access family planning. Abortion is illegal, and various cultural reasons mean that the use of birth control is far too low, though many women want to use it.

Faiqa Siddiq, a gynaecologist, claims that “The mothers themselves wish to save the children but they also see the economic struggle of their families in a time of growing inflation.”

“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,” stated 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.