Female college students across Namibia have caused a stir by holding a mini summit to discuss infanticide and baby dumping amid reports that figures are at an all-time high.
Students say though infanticide and baby-dumping is a social-ill, rampant cases of unplanned pregnancies among their peers has resulted in them seeking urgent solutions.
The culture of baby dumping has gained much popularity among young adults despite its prohibition under Namibian law with the exception of cases involving incest, rape or when a pregnancy is deemed a health risk to the life of the mother.
Reports, from Windhoek, the capital, say though it is difficult to estimate the true extent of infanticide and baby-dumping, as many cases go unreported, the situation is escalating at an alarming rate.
According to media reports presented from state health department, an average of 40 bodies of new-born babies are discovered each month in human waste flushed down toilets.
Most of the dumped-babies would be from students.
The mini summit is said to have been facilitated by the vice-president of the Inter-parliamentary Union (ICU) Co-ordinating Committee of Women, Margaret Mensah-Williams, and attended by a few diplomats.
Abortion and Sex education
And although legalisation of abortion is reported to have been strongly recommended by many participants at the summit the idea was question because of the belief that the wider society is against it.
A 1999 government initiative to legalise abortion was abandoned after the Namibians widely opposed any such law in the southern African country.
Another thorny topic, the infusion of sex education in the education curriculum, came under discussion with reports saying it was suggested to be introduced into the primary school system.
“Namibians are ignorant about issues that are right in front of us… Children have sex from the tender age of 12 – this is reality” one participant is reported saying.
Taking the risk
The fear of shame, stigma and finger-pointing by society when a girl falls pregnant at an early age is also a strong reason that leads young mothers to drown or bury their babies or throw them into Blair toilets.
“What the girls are doing is against family values and that could be part of the reason why they would rather take the risk than to be rejected,” Frida Shiwedha a student at Windhoek High School told delegates.
Culturally, the dominant male role in most Namibian households deprives women of the choice to use contraceptives or to say no to sex, reports say.
The resultant pregnancies are often unwanted, as women feel they are unable to care for the child, whether because of poverty, sickness or other social or economic pressures.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 19 million unsafe abortions are conducted each year. This leads to 7 million permanent injuries and 70 000 deaths.
In Africa, it is estimated that 80 women die every day as a result of the measures they take to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.