Infanticide and illegal infant abandonment in Malaysia

Child Abuse Negl 2014; 38: 1715-24


Razali S, Kirkman M, Ahmad SHFisher J


Infant abandonment and infanticide are poorly understood in Malaysia. The information available in the public arena comes predominantly from anecdotal sources. The aim of this study was to describe the prevalence and characteristics of infanticide and illegal infant abandonment in Malaysia and to estimate annual rates for the most recent decade. Summaries of data about infanticide and illegal infant abandonment were gathered from police records; the annual number of live births was ascertained from the national registry. The estimated inferred infanticide rates for Malaysia were compared with the infanticide rates among countries of very high, high, medium, and low rankings on the Human Development, Gender Inequality, and Gini indices. From 1999 to 2011, 1,069 cases of illegal infant abandonment were recorded and 1,147 people were arrested as suspected perpetrators. The estimated inferred infanticide rate fluctuated between 4.82 and 9.11 per 100,000 live births, a moderate rate relative to the infanticide rates of other countries. There are substantial missing data, with details undocumented for about 78-87% of cases and suspected perpetrators. Of the documented cases, it appeared that more boys than girls were victims and that suspected perpetrators were predominantly Malays who were women, usually mothers of the victim; the possibility of arrest bias must be acknowledged. Economic and social inequality, particularly gender inequality, might contribute to the phenomena of infanticide and abandonment. Strategies to reduce rates of infanticide and illegal infant abandonment in Malaysia will require strengthening of the surveillance system and attention to the gender-based inequalities that underpin human development.


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