Infanticide: back to the Dark Ages

It is an unfortunate tragedy when infants, mere babes, are killed and thrown away. According to the Edhi Foundation, the number of dead infants found in 2010 was 1,210 in comparison to 999 in 2009 and 890 in 2008. And these are just conservative estimates from the main cities of Pakistan. Infanticide in the rural areas is much higher than in the urban areas. Most of the infants killed or abandoned to die are girls. The reasons for infanticide are mostly due to the children being born out of wedlock. As far as killing the girl-child is concerned, our patriarchal system is responsible.

Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi have started a programme under which they are encouraging people not to kill innocent babies but to leave them at the Edhi Foundation. “Do not murder, lay them here,” reads a sign hanging outside the Foundation’s Karachi base where it has left cradles so that people can leave the newborns there. This wonderful gesture by the Edhis shows their deepest humanitarian concern and commitment to philanthropy.

It is a great tragedy that 1,400 years ago, our religion – Islam – forbade the Arabs from burying alive their girl-child but this practice still continues in a country that calls itself an ‘Islamic Republic’. Islam abolished female infanticide, preached education of women and allowed women to work in all fields of life but our retrogressive society is indulging in practices contrary to the principles of Islam. Most of the mullahs in Pakistan are preaching hate instead of giving out the true message of our religion. These so-called preachers of religion are the first ones to declare someone an infidel for their vested interests but when it comes to declaring infanticide a criminal activity, they choose to remain silent. On the other hand, when it comes to female children, our society needs to be educated that they are not a burden on the parents but a blessing. Old-age customs like the dowry system need to be abolished. We need more Edhis in our midst. The government must also take adequate measures to raise awareness among the masses and overcome such retrograde practices for a progressive Pakistan.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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