By Abdul Ghani Nasir
BANGI, 9 June 2010 -- Although the phenomena of babies born out of wedlock being abandoned or thrown is becoming a worrying trend there has not been any detailed study carried out to find their causes and to suggest remedies to curtail the trend including having preventive programmes to youths and teenagers.
A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia lecturer with the Social Works Programme, School of Psychology and Human Development, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Assoc. Prof. Dr Fatimah Abdullah in a paper presented at a seminar on prevention of social ills said her partial studies had shown that unwanted pregnancies had not only affected teenagers but also women in their late 20s.
With the notion “I am not going to get pregnant” some teenage girls have sex with men they barely knew. Apart from that many career women living in cities oblige their boyfriends’ request when they are asked to watch pornographic VCDs and then engage in sexual activities out of wedlock.
When the girl gets pregnant, the boyfriend will do a vanishing act to absolve himself of all responsibilities. The unfortunate girl is left alone with a foetus in her womb. The stigma of society against those who pregnant out of wedlock only makes matters worse. The fear of their secrets being discovered by their families make them resort to the unthinkable, they just abandoned the newborn.
Her research was based on records of admission to the Department of Social Works Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, Cheras.
Almost all the babies that were abandoned either in rubbish bins or buried in shallow graves died.
Bukit Aman Police Department statistics show cases of abandoned babies increased to 83 in 2006 compared to just 65 cases in 2000. From the 83 cases 79 are perfectly formed infants and the other four are still foetuses. The state of Selangor reported the highest number of 22 cases in 2000 and this increased to 24 cases in 2006.
The reasons why babies born out of wedlock were abandoned has not been identified yet since no specific research has been done, said Dr Fatimah. She referred to a news report exposing cases of teenagers who were involved but ashamed to come out in the open. Adding salt to injury the victims boyfriends did not want to have anything to do with the pregnancy and some just disappeared.
Teenagers who are pregnant out of wedlock face numerous problems such as being ostracized by their own families while some lost their jobs.
In her research, Dr Fatimah also looked at data sources which can provide her with a clearer view of the issue. From her interviews with the residents of Rumah Nur from 2004 to 2008, she analysed the factors leading to pregnancy out of wedlock, family responses and future planning for the teenagers affected.
There were 81 girls between the ages 15 to19, 118 between 20 to 24 and there was also a widow aged 40.
In terms of education 190 of the victims completed their secondary schooling, 39 with STPM and college qualifications, 53 with only primary school education and 10 who did not go to school.
Considering their educational level it is not surprising that 177 of them earned more than RM 1,500 a month with another 81 earning between RM 1,000-RM 1,499.
What is worrying said Dr Fatimah is the lack of knowledge about sexuality among these girls. Most of them did not know they are pregnant when their menstruation stopped even though this is a clear sign of pregnancy. What is worst is some of the girls are not even aware of their reproductive system in that they can’t even differentiate their urethral and vaginal opening. This is revealed by a company that sells contraceptives.
An in-depth study is done on eight girls, five of whom come from an incomplete family. Their parents were either divorced or single mothers with husbands who had passed away resulting in the girls lacking in guidance from a father.
Dr Fatimah recommends that attention be given towards measures to prevent the problem from escalating. Most of teenagers either study or work in the city and live alone or with friends but away from their parents.
They sometimes live with the opposite sex under one roof or at the very least have boys staying in neighbouring flats. This makes meetings and accessibility to the males much easier.
“The attitude of neighbours not wanting to interfere in the affairs of others especially in the city because they are always busy with their careers will not be a deterant as they will not act as good informal social supervision. Yet some employers that provide the accommodations are not concerned over these matters,” she said.
As for the families their refusal to allow their daughters or sons to get married, is a major factor why most girls prefer to elope with their boyfriends or live together until they become pregnant.
“This conflict of disunity and family attitudes relates to the deviant behaviors in teenagers,” she added saying that religious guidance and values are the strongest defense to such deviant behavior especially relating to sex out of wedlock though she does not have enough data to fully support this theory.
She pointed out that the media and the entertainment scene also have a great influence leading to sex out of wedlock and one study in 2003 found that there is a close correlation between entertainment and sexual promiscuity.
“So the control and filtering of entertainment and media is also important,” Dr Fatimah said.
In the Malaysian context there is hardly any specific policy or programmes in place to help teenagers who become pregnant out of wedlock. This is because there is no adequate data about them specifically on their socio-economic background, interaction and sexual experience before marriage.
She said that the issue of pregnancy out of wedlock has to be dealt with carefully because it involves sensitive issues like religion, culture and race among others.
The method employed in the west such as giving away contraceptive to prevent pregnancy is definitely not appropriate in the Malay Muslim environment.
This phenomenon is a manifestation of bigger issues about the flaws in the social structure system. Therefore a complete profile is being collected, because it is crucial in devising intervention and prevention programmes.
“This is important not only to teenagers but their off springs in terms of their heritage, care and their future,” said Dr Fatimah.