Baby dumping on the rise

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MASERU — Twenty-two-year-old Nthabiseng (not her real name) is a haunted woman.
Earlier this month Nthabiseng was arrested and sentenced to two months in prison for dumping her newly-born baby in a pit latrine.
She however escaped jail after she paid a M200 fine.
But a month after that horrible day when she threw away her baby she is still haunted by the events.
In fact, she has not known any peace ever since.
Even her closest neighbours have turned against her, she said.
No one wants to speak to her anymore.
The neighbours only steal gazes from a distance.
On reflection, she said she regrets what she did.
She said even though she is employed as a factory worker she feared that she would not be able to properly support the baby.
Factory workers in Maseru earn an average of M700 a month, an amount she said was not enough to care for yet another mouth.
Nthabiseng already has a five-year-old daughter. She got pregnant when she was just 17.
She said she had vowed not to bring shame on the family by falling pregnant out of wedlock again.
But here she was with yet another pregnancy.
She said she was already struggling to provide for her family of six who stay in Motete in Leribe.
The pressure to get rid of the baby was immense, she said.
“My parents were already taking care of the child I had when I was just a teenager. I did not know how I would face them this time around.
“Having another baby would just cause trouble,” she said.
She said she decided to terminate the life of the baby as soon as she delivered.
She said although she did a terrible thing in ending the baby’s life, she had no other option.
She said she is ashamed of what she did and wished she had not done it.
It was the worst thing that she did, she said.
“I did a very bad thing by killing the baby and hiding it. God will not forgive me for what I did. I have never felt this bad all my life,” a tearful Nthabiseng said.
She said she was also ashamed because she did not know who had fathered the baby.
She had unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.
 “I was really careless by having unprotected sex. I was wondering how I would look at him in five years and tell him that I did not know his father.”
She also said if she had kept the baby she would have had to leave her job or go on unpaid maternity leave.
She alleged that women who fell pregnant are not paid during maternity leave at her factory.
The other alternative was to look for a baby sitter whom she would have had to pay.
All the two options were untenable, she said.
“I had no other way but to wait for the baby to be born before I could kill it.
“I had no other way,” she insisted.
Even though she regrets killing the baby, she said her neighbours have been too harsh on her.
“Yes, I killed and threw away my baby. That is a big mistake which I cannot correct. But people do not have the right to judge me.
“I have been insulted and called a killer. If they knew the pain and guilt I am feeling, they would not be passing such harsh judgments.
“I had connected with the baby and ending its life was the most horrifying thing I had ever done.”
Neighbours who spoke to the Lesotho Times said Nthabiseng had hidden the pregnancy and fiercely denied that she was pregnant.
“She denied every time I asked her if she was pregnant. When the tummy grew bigger she hid under baggy clothes,” a neighbour who refused to be named told the Lesotho Times.
The neighbour said Nthabiseng became withdrawn when the time to deliver the baby approached.
“She stopped visiting me. She would lock herself in her room when she was not at work,” she said.
But at no point did she suspect that she was planning to kill and dump the baby, said the neighbour.
“When she started avoiding us we never thought she was capable of killing her baby,” she said.
One afternoon, one of the neighbours saw Nthabiseng sneak into an abandoned pit latrine.
“Neighbours claimed they had seen her sneak into the toilet. They went to see what she had dumped. There was a dead baby boy in an almost full pit.”
She said the whole community was shocked by the killing.
Nthabiseng was reported to the local chief and was later handed over to the police.
The incident had left a deep scar on her conscience, Nthabiseng said.
“Everybody has turned against me. My close friends are also avoiding me,” she said.
A few weeks after Nthabiseng was released from police custody, another woman was also arrested for concealing birth in Qoaling.
She appeared before the magistrate’s court last week and was sentenced to community service.
Senior Superintendent Janki Hlaahla, from Leribe police station, said the police were concerned about the increasing cases of baby dumping in the district.
Only last Sunday, Hlaahla said the police arrested yet another woman after she dumped her newly-born baby.
The 28-year-old woman dumped the baby in a pit latrine before it was rescued by some villagers.
The baby survived.
Hlaahla said the woman was due to face a charge of attempted murder.
According to Hlaahla, the woman had successfully concealed her pregnancy from neighbours.
On Sunday, a neighbour wanted to use the toilet when she heard a baby cry.
“A woman said she heard a baby cry when she came closer to the toilet. She got in and found the baby down the pit. She called for help and together with other women they managed to take the baby out alive,” Hlaahla told the Lesotho Times.
He said the suspect denied that the baby was hers. She and the baby were however taken to Motebang hospital where doctors confirmed that she had just delivered the baby.
The police said doctors at the hospital had not detected any mental problem with the woman.
“She does not have any mental disorder. She knew exactly what she was doing. This is why charges have been laid against her,” Hlaahla said.
He said police investigations were still underway and she will appear in court as soon as investigations were complete.
“She will appear before the court as soon as the investigations are done.”
Hlaahla said the practice of baby dumping was common among young, unmarried women.
“Baby-dumping is common in unmarried and younger women. Married women however (sometimes) do it. In some cases with the consent of (the husband),” he said.
Critics say a fine of M200 imposed on baby dumpers was a slap on the wrist and was not stiff enough to discourage the practice.
Section 2 of the Concealment of Birth Proclamation No.3 of 1949 says: “Any person who disposes of the body of any child with intent to conceal the fact of its birth, whether the child died before, during or after birth, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding M200 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years.”
The law says “whenever a person disposes of the body of any such child which was recently born, otherwise than under a lawful burial order, he shall be deemed to have disposed such body with intent to conceal the fact of the child’s birth, unless it is proved that he had no such intent.
“A person may be convicted although it has not been proved that the child in question died before its body was disposed of.”

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