Comment: Dead babies do not lie

The decomposing corpse of a dead baby was found in a polythene bag, in the park near the mosque in Hulhumale’ yesterday. The baby was possibly strangled to death by an underwear wrung tightly around its frail neck.

Two days ago, a three month old foetus was found discarded in a tin can, hidden in the bushes on the adjacent island of Vilingili.

Earlier this month, the corpse of another foetus was found underwater at the swimming track in Male’, with cuts and wounds to its head and limbs.

Just a few months ago, yet another baby was found – still breathing – abandoned near a cell phone tower in Hulhumale.

Much has been written about the apparent increase in such cases, and the need to bring the perpetrators to justice.

But even as the tide of outrage swells and recedes with each breaking story of a dead or mutilated baby found abandoned in the islands, there is the issue at the heart of the matter that the worthy, indignant citizens have yet to address.

Dhivehi social attitudes, dictated by religious mores that lay greater stress on appearances and labels than on any visible code of conduct or value system, have created a society where pre-marital and extra-marital sex is widely prevalent and tolerated, but open discussions on contraception and sex-education is still taboo.

We don’t need no education

Dr Mauroof Hussein, reportedly the sole contender for vice-presidency of the Adhaalath party, complained on his personal blog in 2009 about a public ad for contraception. In the same post, he equates ‘safe-sex’ education allegedly provided by counsellors to senior students on one island, to “fornicating without getting pregnant”.

Referring to condoms as “one of the pillars of the modern uncivilization(sic)”, he also expresses worries about having to enlighten his own child about such immorality as knowledge of safe sex.

While the good doctor calls the public interest ads ‘immoral and stupid’, the dead babies discarded in tin cans and polythene bags would suggest otherwise.

World over, the mullah, the bishop and the rabbi have united to advocate striking the fear of God into the hearts of potential sinners as the ‘only solution’ to prevent unplanned pregnancy, but until such day as this can be achieved, there clearly needs to be steps taken to generate greater sexual awareness among the young and sexually active.

One of the great travesties of clerical opposition towards reproductive sciences is their adamant stance that sex-education is somehow the same as encouraging young men and women to engage in ‘fornication’.

This rather unfortunate fixation of the mullah on ‘fornication’ blinds them to the fact that sex-education does not, in fact, involve classroom orgies – and that it is ignorance that results in thousands of unplanned teenage pregnancies every year, not condom ads.

Adolescents and teenagers desperately need the tools of education, not the shelter of ignorance, in order to understand and deal with the rapid physiological and hormonal changes occurring in them.
In a society where convicted paedophiles proudly strut about in the streets, or run Qur’an centres that provide unlimited access to young children, a well-rounded, early sex-education could ensure that young children are well-equipped to identify and guard themselves against sexual abuse.

Young men and women who are well-informed about protective sex, venereal diseases, and the nature and risks of contraception, STDs and pregnancy are much less likely to engage in irresponsible sexual behaviour than those that aren’t.

Abstinence-only education, on the other hand, shies away from openly discussing matters of reproduction, and has failed spectacularly in tackling the issue of pre-marital pregnancies – even though the influence of the Church and the Mosque means that billions continue to be poured down this endless drain.

In the absence of readily accessible scientific information about sex, young people turn to dubious pornographic websites, exaggerating peers and commercialized sex in music videos that objectify women, contain demeaning lyrics and gives exactly the wrong message.

Without a clear understanding of sex in the proper social and biological contexts, or proper scientific understanding of the consequences, it is hardly surprising that young Maldivians frequently engage in risky sexual behaviour – resulting in hundreds of unplanned pregnancies.

An undesired pandemic

According to reports, two of the babies found in the past months were foetuses, ripped prematurely from the womb. The other babies were also seemingly discarded immediately upon birth, with the placenta and umbilical cords still attached.

It doesn’t take NASA to figure out these were botched attempts to deal with undesired pregnancies.

Abortions are illegal in the Maldives, except if the mother’s life is at risk, or the child suffers from a severe congenital defect.

While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of Maldivians flying to neighbouring ports of India and Sri Lanka to have their unwanted pregnancies ‘fixed’, many teenagers and other young people are unable to afford such trips and find themselves staring at a lifetime of severe social stigma and ostracism, as well as the added pain and humiliation of public flogging by the long arms of Maldivian justice.

What results is a gut-wrenching nightmare that makes for uncomfortable reading.

While in some another countries, the women could have approached a qualified doctor and terminated the pregnancy in a safe, controlled manner – in the Maldives, the task falls into the hands of unqualified quacks and shady ‘uncles’.

Some are repeatedly punched in the stomach to force a miscarriage. Others have objects such as knitting needles and coat hangers inserted into the vagina to tear the amniotic sac. The risk of potentially fatal infections and perforated intestines in these cases cannot be understated.

Girls, often as young as 12, have illegal prescription drugs, poisonous herbs, fabric bleach, kerosene and other toxic concoctions pumped into their uterus, sometimes with fatal results.

Worldwide, 21.5 million women underwent unsafe abortions in 2008, according to a paper published by the World Health Organization in 2011.

The WHO also estimates that 5 women die every hour from botched attempts at abortions.

Research compiled by the Guttmacher Institute in February 2011 suggests over 47,000 women die every year from complications resulting from risky abortion procedures, including hemorrhage, sepsis, shock and multiple organ failure – accounting for about 13% of all maternal deaths.

Of those who survive, over five million suffer from long term health complications, according to a 2009 paper titled ‘Unsafe Abortion: Maternal Mortality’ by Dr Lisa B. Haddad and Dr. Nawal M. Nour.

With almost half of all induced abortions worldwide deemed to be unsafe, Dhivehin need to acknowledge that this issue transcends mere crime and punishment, or mere outrage at aborted foetuses.

It is quite literally a matter of life and death for hundreds of young girls who find themselves in the loneliest spot in the world – caught in a situation that they’re either too immature or ill-equipped to deal with, finding the young promise of the rest of their lives suddenly snatched away, and having absolutely no one – no family, or support group, or NGO, or doctor to approach.

The tiny corpses unearthed across the capital region could be explained – if not justified – as the result of sheer panic and emotional distress, but the lives of hundreds of young women are at risk every day at the hands of a society that won’t extend a safety net of empathy, support – or safe abortion rights.

The combined grip of social stigma, lack of sex-education and awareness, an insensitive legal system, absent support and rehabilitation process and an emerging section of society that seeks to address every problem with the much favoured tools of intimidation and shame has left society vulnerable to making murderers out of unwed mothers.

These are ugly realities that the Government and Dhivehi society equally refuse to confront, and choose to stow away instead – much like the dead babies hidden away in the bushes.

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36 thoughts on “Comment: Dead babies do not lie”

  1. A tense sense of struggle for the basic dignity of life must be waged against a culture which emphasizes face, appearance.

    When will the so called religious of this world abandon their extra-ordinarily vain, shallow and narcissistic idea of 'virtue...' which is in fact nothing but a heartless display of religious vanity cloaked as humility.

    The only virtue is genuine, sacrificial caring for the dignity of life.

    I like the way Heidegger expressed the tension of caring...'sorge...' a sense of anxious intensity of caring.

    What is needed is care, support, love and understanding towards a Woman who falls pregnant out of welock.

    She does not need 'forgiveness' for falling pregnant either, if she does, we all do, because we have all done it in our minds (sex out of wedlock...)

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  2. Yameen, you have done it again. I have been waiting to read about these infanticides from the context it occurs. I agree with you, Maldivians are hypocrites with double standards. With abortions undertaken so commonly, are we at a position to point fingers when we have failed to provide any services, support or for that matter, accurate information! Let alone the male partners who impregnate the women are safely invisible. Don't they have a role. Are we not concerned about them as a society?

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  3. Thank you for this great article.

    These dead babies and fetuses are a symbol of the clash and search for values in Maldivian society.

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  4. The only way to make people to adhere value and ethics, would come by teaching humanity, that is love, passion and respect to all living being in the same manner that they all have feeling, fear, pain and emotion. By preaching inhumanity in the name of some crazy deity who is there to avenge human being for doing sins would never make people to be perfect human being.

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  5. As a society we have always focussed on the literal interpretations of solutions to problems. The underlying causes are never explored.

    Three babies were discovered, how many more bodies were successfully disposed off? How many cases of child abuse, rape etc have been covered up to save face?

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  6. Maldivians are a bunch of animals living because they just breathe. They have no shame, no humanity and no social values. They are simply disgusting.

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  7. The majority of mullahs don’t understand the heathens lounge.
    So you have to write in Dhivehi.

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  8. It is alarming to see the extent of sexual abuse of children in the islands. It is also alarming to see how men in positions and power use young girls for their sexual orgies.

    I recently met one young girl in an island who did not know who the father of her child was because she was used by many who used her while they watched porno and mind you she is underage and the island councilor was involved.The whole island knew what happened

    Another woman has given birth to three children from her father on another island.

    Then there was another handicapped one who was abused by the deliver of a letter which was bringing her the news of treatment from the Government.

    And so goes on the stories...And as the girls falls victim, the people turn a blind eye and every now and then and more frequently now, there are erupting events such as the new born baby bodies been discovered.

    Yes, Yameen, a very true article. A country living in denial. A missionary approach, a confused society created by a deliberate strategy to keep power, not expecting the change. A step towards Democracy taken by twisting an arm and a feeble leadership who compromised integrity and blindfolded the people.

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  9. Please teach young girls how to abstain until marriage. That is the best solution. Be gentle with those who happen to have babies outside wedlock. They are humans and often immature and unprepared to face the dangerous world. Forgive for once to their grave mistake.

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  10. Fornication is a sin. period. still don't get it? ... Your semantics cannot hide your aversion to moral authority. It is what seeps through all these big English words. Are you english?

    Stop fornication, you stop unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock. If unwanted pregnancies do occur, provide for them the State must the protection/shelter sanctioned in religion. Religion, Islam is our creed, eminem-fellow. Islam is our way, take your things and your earl-grey pronunciation out into the highway.

    We don't give a rats arse what the UN thinks of Islam. We turn our heads towards God-His Book, His messengers, Him eternal and all-knowing we feel. Think of us as high, jus not as kool as yu dimseng moterfkrs.

    Pity you human, that you were born on the wrong side of the bed. Pity i that i will see you in hell, all the way from heaven. Do you believe? hmm/ tsk tsk

    Oh the joy of knowing the fate of fornicators and baby killers. oh oh oh, oh the joy. almost forgot these liberal jabbawockee writers. wot a buch of high fashion losers, the lot of you. your civilization fails our tests, and our tests rock.

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  11. *State protection implied to the love children, of which im one.

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  12. @#[email protected]# (me name-calling you), its a social taboo becos God says its a sin. get it? sariya? comprende? ...its a tabboo becos God has forbidden fornication! God does not approve it. You think a well lettered essay here outdoes this?

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  13. A very good article! I also agree with most of the comments here.

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  14. In the US, we have discovered that teaching about contraceptives and legalizing abortion actually increases unplanned pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease, and cause abortion rates to skyrocket.

    This is largely due to the fact that people begin to consider that contraceptives are "birth control" when they are, in fact, only "birth-resistance". Believing you can ALWAYS stop pregnancy when using contraceptives allows any hesitancy by the young and ignorant to be thrown out the window.

    In the US, with our sex ed in schools and widely available abortion still manage to see 54% of women aborting report that they used "protection" during the month they got pregnant. And sexually-transmitted diseases are rampant - New York City reports herpes infections of 1/3 of its population.

    Keep your moralizing and double standards - they may be they only thing protecting you from something FAR worse.

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  15. @ JP Prichard - interesting comments, that seem to go against established ideas. Do you have any links for these studies ?
    - teaching about contraception causes abortion rates to skyrocket
    - 54% used protection
    - 33% of NYC has herpes
    It would be very interesting to see your sources, as a quick search on google does not find them.

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  16. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110223092408.htm

    It's clear that teaching is not enough. People should have access to contraceptives as well and should know how to use them properly. Using a contraceptive does reduce the chances of pregnancy.

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  17. Ballontre said "Stop fornication, you stop unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock"

    That's as stupid as saying 'Start eating, and you'll stop world hunger' without addressing the root causes.

    Obviously, there's more to this issue than patronizing the victims.

    "..it is ignorance that results in thousands of unplanned teenage pregnancies every year, not condom ads."

    If drug abusers can be rehabilitated and given second chances, why not young pregnant girls?

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  18. WELL SAID YAMEEN!
    For the time being , just to address the growing number of dead babies popping up on a weekly basis, Maldivians should really have a drop off counter maybe at a hospital, pharmacy or even a shop where no questions be asked , you just leave your "unwanted" baby and leave. Its a solution till the religious heads pull their finger out of their a*** and does a reality check.

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  19. @unknown person "Maldivians should really have a drop off counter maybe at a hospital"... strangely, outside many hospitals here in Czech republic, there are "baby boxes" where unwanted new born babies can be deposited..when the door is opened an alarm sounds in the building and the baby is collected and usually adopted.

    Better than abandoning it to die somewhere, or illegal and unsafe abortions? Better still is sex education, feeely available contraception and removal of repressive religious dogma from the situation.

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  20. ai: What is a root? What is a root cause? The root cause is fornication, my friend!
    Rehabilitated? Yes, rehabilitated not to commit fornication.
    Root cause, bleh!

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  21. Fantastic article, Yameen - very well written, researched and so true!

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  22. please please publish this article translated in dhivehi. so you can reach the people you actually need to reach.

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  23. @bai "The root cause is fornication". Sorry, but the urge to have sex is a basic part of being alive. You cannot remove it, by legislation or by using religion to frighten people. It is a short step from your attitude to stoning "adulterers" or rape victims to death.

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  24. @Derek Postance from Czech Republic...yes really Czech Republic (lol)...ofcourse sex education and a removal of repressed religious minds is what's ideal, but how soon would we Maldivians get to that, how many more babies need to be murdered before that happens?? A drop off point for "unwanted" babies is something fathomable in the extremely fanatic repressed people that live here.

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  25. Derek, yep true! Bravo! But we have our limits? That is why we have something called 'marriage'. Dig me? Nah, don't think you, you will...
    Man, eat, drink, f*** within the limits Mister Postance.

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  26. Very well researched article. I think we need to look at one more scenario in these tragic cases. It is a possibility, and in all likelihood, a probability, that some of these babies maybe the result of rape cases.

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  27. Good article..But the truth of the matter is maldivians know everything..But refuse to behave like civilized human beings..they just love the barbaric lifestyle that they'd been following

    It goes like:men and women have no shame...they just dont want to follow contraceptive methods when getting into relationships ,it's so casual for them..gettng pregnant and even giving birth to illegitimate children is no big deal for them...they kill the babies not for fear of social stigma..they kill because they can't afford for the babies..As simple as that...Maldivian women have been giving birth to illegitimate children openly for years and there's not much of any punishment for any such thing..there are so many educated families who openly accept these things..here its really a society so open,free to live like animals...There IS NO SOCIAL STIGMA for those who have children out of wedlock...It's all a facade to show that this is a very pious society...One can say that this country is the modern sodom...just plain vile and liberal place where every dirty and shameless thing happens openly..murder,gang rape,child abuse,violence,bestiality,pedophiles,fathers molesting their own daughters and begetting fathering their own grandchildren,mothers molesting their own sons...name it and it's all happening in this open society of Maldives..This country is fit now to be submerged under the sea..there's nothing new to happen here anymore..

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  28. thinking of our society brings tears to my eyes.... when did we become animals?? where are we heading to??

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  29. @For all those who cry for your beautiful nation, your tears, though they come from tragedy, are beautiful before your Creator, who transforms your tears into pearls of wisdom, compassion and hope for your nation, your tears will make the Maldives beautiful. Whilst people still care enough to weep, their is hope. Your hurt will be the source of the healing of your nation, so cry, let the tears flow, burn with sorrow, and let that fire be released as love and creative energy. Your tears will be the source of your healing, their needs to be more tears.

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  30. I CANT BELIEVE HOW IGNORANT YOU ARE YAMEEN. BEFORE THROWING HATEFUL STONES AT ISLAM DID YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH ON WHAT ISLAM REALLY SAYS? WHEN YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH MAKE SURE YOU DONT GO FOR ONLY WHAT YOU SEE AND WHAT PEOPLE DO. MALDIVIAN LAW AND THEIR ACT IS NOT WHOLY BASED ON ISLAM. HAD IT BEEN YOU WOULDNT SEE THE SCENE THAT WE SEE TODAY IN MALDIVES. ISLAM STRESSES ON PREVENTION THAN CURE BUT MIND YOU IT DOES NOT LEAVE THE CURE PART. I AGREE WITH YOU WHEN YOU SAY EDUCATION IS THE SOLUTION. YES GOOD ISLAMIC EDUCATION IS. IF THE YOUNG FEEL SEXUAL DESIRES THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO MARRY THAT WAY THEY WILL NOT BE ALONE IN ANY STATE. IF YOU ARE SAYING LETS GIVE OUR YOUNG SAFE SEX EDUCATION THAT IS LIKE GIVING THEM THE 'YES' TO GO AND DO WHAT THEY LIKE. WE SHOULD BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT WE SAY AND WHAT WE DO YAMEEN. SAYING SUCH THINGS CAN RESULT OUR CHILDREN TO GO IN WAYS UNIMAGINABLE. I DO AGREE THERE SHOULD BE SEXUAL AWARENESS ISLAM ALSO DOES. BUT FORNICATION CAN NEVER LEAD TO GOOD. SAFE OR NOT. I REALLY HOPE THAT YOU WOULD DO YOUR RESEARCH INTO ISLAM AND REALLY SEE WHAT IT SAYS IM SURE YOU WILL SEE HOW JUSTIFIED ISLAM IS. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH WHAT YOU SAY OR ELSE WHO KNOWS WHAT MAY HAPPEN. ALLAH DOES NOT TAKE KINDLY ON PEOPLE WHO POINT FINGERS AT HIS SYSTEM WHICH MID YOU IS THE BEST.

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