Written by: Errol Naidoo
Article source: familypolicyinstitute.com
Dr Whitney Rosenberg, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg requested Family Policy Institute’s assistance to get legislation approved in Parliament that will prevent the growing scourge of the abandonment of new-born babies in South Africa.
Dr Rosenberg is the co-founder of “Baby Savers South Africa” an NPO that provides services like baby baskets and safe havens to ensure the safe rescue of abandoned new-born babies.
Tragically, however, “Baby Savers SA” recently received a directive from the Gauteng Department of Social Development informing them the “practice of baby saver/haven box’ structures and services are illegal and must immediately cease all services and shut down in the province.”
Dr Rosenberg proposes Parliament amend legislation to ensure baby abandonment remains a crime but the law amended to allow for SAFE RELINQUISHMENT – if a baby is safely relinquished in a baby saver with no signs of abuse then it will NOT amount to child abandonment.
The objectives of the “Baby Savers” legislation is to prevent the unsafe abandonment of babies and therefore prevent deaths. Infants initially abandoned by desperate mothers can be reclaimed when their circumstances improve or can be put up for adoption in caring families.
She argues, “SA law is purely reactive in its approach to child abandonment. It punishes the crime without providing a safe alternative – nothing to prevent unsafe abandonment.
The Children’s Act 38 of 2005, The General Law Amendment Act 46 of 1935 and the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 make concealing a birth or abandoning a baby a criminal offence.”
“However, these provisions do not deter mothers from unsafely abandoning their babies. In fact, we know that numbers are rising. Very few women are ever successfully prosecuted for these crimes. The crime of concealment of birth cannot be implemented where an infant is found in an open veld, rubbish dump or pavement. The law is therefore ineffective.”
In 2015, 5.9 million children (43 out of every 1,000 children born alive) died before their fifth birthday. Nearly half of these deaths occurred among neonates (babies 28 days old or younger); three-quarters of them occurred among infants (children less than one year old).
Some of the leading causes of child abandonment are, poverty, gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies, rape, restrictive legislation, lack of sufficient pregnancy counselling, lack of social workers and failed illegal abortions. The media reports 63 babies were abandoned in 2023.
Infanticide (the killing of a child under one year old) and neonaticide (the killing of a newborn within 24 hours or 28 days of birth, depending on definition) can be active (deliberate killing by, for example, suffocation) or passive (killing through nutritional, physical, or emotional neglect).
Many infanticides and neonaticides are the result of abandonment—the mother leaves her infant or newborn baby in a place without care or protection, either with the intention of killing the child or with the hope that someone will find and care for him/her.
Baby Savers SA hopes to in future table a private members bill in Parliament should their calls to amend the Children’s Amendment Act not come to fruition. However, it will need public support.
“Baby Savers South Africa” (BSSA) is a registered not-for-profit organization and functions as an advisory body for its members. Safe relinquishment through a Baby Saver is an immediate solution suited to South Africa for the ongoing (and growing) crisis of baby abandonment.
Please pray for the vital life-saving work of “Baby Savers SA” including the successful passing of legislation in Parliament that will help prevent the deaths of new born babies in South Africa.
Please write to the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu at JudyB@dsd.gov.za (ministerial secretary) and politely request she urgently intervene in the baby saver/safe haven service issue to help save the lives of the most defenseless and vulnerable members of society.
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Date published: 07/11/2023
Feature image: Image for illustrative purposes only. Artwork adapted from www.facebook.com/BabySaversSA
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