Feature Article of Thursday, 8 March 2012

Columnist: Entsuah, Barbara

Re: Mother dumps day old baby into Latrine

I read this sad story published on Ghanaweb on March 6th and while on the one hand, I rejoice at the survival of the baby, I was more incensed by the reaction of the police. The “suspect” Vida Talia is under police guard in the hospital, and the quote from the police was that “the suspect would be brought to justice as soon as she is discharged”. This incident raises a number of questions for us as a society especially in view of the fact that the woman is a mother of two children: s “what provisions do we have in place to help women or girls who do not perform abortion of their babies but go ahead and deliver their babies and maybe out of fear or confusion dump them?” What social net do we have for women or girls who for one reason or another, cannot support another child?
In some countries there are clearly marked “safe places” like fire stations, police stations, churches, pregnancy centers etc. which encourage any mother e who cannot or does not want to keep her baby to take the child to and NO QUESTIONS ARE ASKED. The individual is not made to feel guilty. The whole concept of criminalization of such acts has to be reconsidered. We as a society have to have the necessary social or community services available for such unfortunate mother/child situations. There are many married couples who cannot have children and are only too willing to adopt “unwanted” babies. It is so easy to quickly jump to conclusions and want to “administer justice” in such cases when we may be “blaming the victim” depending on the circumstances of the story. I am not in any way condoning her action but could it have been something done out of desperation or fear? We do not know the whole story, but if such action is considered criminal in our constitution/laws, then it needs to be re-evaluated.
Most women in this situation may need counseling and sympathy not condemnation or jail depending on what their particular story is about. In this case, she probably was already feeling guilty about what she did and I can imagine workers/nurses at the hospital coming up to her and condemning her etc. to make her feel more guilty as a means of “punishing her”; coupled with a police guard by her bed..
This case makes a call for DOVVSU (Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of Ghana Police) to get involved in similar cases of baby abandonment to help and support women. This is a chance to turn an unfortunate situation into an opportunity. I call upon DOVVSU to promote and adopt the “safe place” concept through media campaigns, programs in churches, schools etc and recruit potential sites to be designated as “safe places”. Then girls/women will have their babies and not perform abortions when they become pregnant. They will also know there are safe places they can go and leave their babies without being condemned or feel guilty.
Childless couples will have babies to adopt and it will be a win-win situation for all. SUCH BABIES DO NOT NECESSARILY HAVE TO GO TO A CHILDREN’S HOME (We recall what can happen in some of these places given the stories from OSU children’s home Such children can be adopted by loving couples who cannot have children of their own. The issue of ease of adoption in our society becomes more pertinent then, as the adoption process and related issues present such difficulty in Ghana, a near impossible undertaking fraught with unethical practices where it exists. It will be an opportunity to establish credible adoption agencies which will place children in good homes with loving parents.

Dr. Barbara Entsuah (Nee Amoo-Lamptey) (Family Medicine Physician).