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In India, no doubt everyone is aware of female infanticide. Girl babies are killed off by their parents/relatives, fearing that the child would only be an unnecessary burden. Even as social activists are fighting hard to eliminate this evil, of late a spate of baby killings is being reported in the UAE.
Among several such instances, look at this case where a woman before boarding a flight out of the country, not only gave birth in the Dubai International Airport‘s toilet, but also strangled her newborn infant with the umbilical cord and then dumped him in the dustbin. Hardly a month later, officials found a dead foetus in an airplane trash bag in the bathroom of a plane from the UAE to the Philippines. Close on the heels of this, yet another 6-month old foetus was found wrapped in toilet paper aboard another flight. This is all in addition to the many number of infants abandoned in rubbish bins and street corners.
My first reaction upon reading about these occurrences was, “How could a mother possibly do such a thing to her own child? She should have been more careful not to get pregnant in the first place, failing which she should have faced the consequences.” But delving just a little deeper, I realized how simplistic and naive my view was.
In a country where having sexual relations out of wedlock – whether one is married or single and whether it is consensual or not – is a crime punishable by law, these incidents may be termed shocking or even gruesome, but it is hardly surprising. Many of these women are people who come to earn their living under questionable circumstances. Living far away from home, lonely and neglected they often get involved in affairs. When even victims of date rape are hesitant to report the incident to authorities for fear of being jailed, it is no wonder that these women chose to keep mum as they risk being kicked into jail if their affairs become known. In such a situation, neither can they openly seek medical guidance, psychological help or even medical insurance, because they have already crossed the law and the healthcare practitioner is supposed to report the case to the authorities.
Even if they somehow get medical help, in the UAE, abortion is not allowed except for “valid reasons” – the only valid reason apparently being danger to the mother’s life or in some rare cases, proven genetic defects. This in turn leads to another problem of quacks endangering the lives of many such young mothers by performing illegal abortions and offering abortion pills on the black market.
So what choice do these women really have? They cannot openly admit that they are pregnant out of wedlock and go ahead and have the child nor can they abort the pregnancy. The only option left is to go back home. Now here they are faced with another dilemma. Such women usually are not very well off to keep hopping on and off long-distance flights. They might also be bound by labour contracts that they need to fulfil. Plus even if they do return home, which would be developing countries like in the Indian sub-continent, Philippines or Africa, they would probably end up being stigmatized by society and shunned by their own families.
It is indeed very easy for us, as privileged spectators, to take up a morally erect standpoint. They should have practiced abstinence. But hey! They are just human. Yes, they should have been more careful – but you know what? Accidents happen all the time. Who doesn’t make mistakes? These desperate women, pushed into a corner by outdated laws and even more outdated societal attitudes, simply did what they had to do.
Childbirth can be an excruciating experience, even with the best of medical facilities, able doctors and supportive family and friends. Frankly, I am personally terrified of it. I can imagine how demanding and painful it must have been to all mothers. But I can’t even begin to imagine the extreme physical and mental agony that these women must have gone through, sitting all alone in a tiny airplane/airport toilet, giving birth to a child which was doomed to die from the very fateful moment of conception.
Anne John, a software engineer by training and freelance journalist by choice, is continuing her relationship with Women’s Web, this time as a Digital Publishing Trainee. She envisions it to be a mutually rewarding one!
Anne John plays with words for a living and would probably do the same even
I admit to never having looked at it the problem from this angle. True, it is easy for us to preach abstinence but living far away from one’s family has its impact on one’s psychology and makes one vulnerable. And with the government’s strict laws threatening social ostracism I suppose these women have no choice.
good one.Had me thinking.
Thank you Hip Grandma. I’m glad you liked reading my point of view.
I’m little shocked after reading it and it made me think…
Yes Saru it is indeed sad and shocking; one of the instances in life which you wish wasn’t true. But unfortunately it is.
A very disturbing and sad subject. Well written!
Another parallel issue is how these women are usually physically exploited (forcibly) by their own employers and other men. A single, helpless, poor woman living on her own in a country that almost always glorifies men and their “needs” and looks down upon all women, not to mention a foreigner, is sure to be ensnared in circumstances beyond her control.
True Neeraja, I agree with you. In fact I have written about that too over here http://www.womensweb.in/2011/08/domestic-workers-uae/
Well written Anne.A difficult topic-U explored the real pblms faced by the domestic workers in UAE more than that r revealed so far.
Thank you Christy. After all spreading awareness is the first step towards improving lives.
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