Vanuatu Church supports stricter penalties for baby-killing mums
A Vanuatu pastor is supporting calls for harsher penalties for women who kill their babies after birth, but says the fathers also need to be held accountable.
A Vanuatu pastor is supporting calls for harsher penalties for women who kill their babies immediately after birth, but says the fathers also need to be held accountable.
Last week the Tanna chief Malcolm Raymond called for the Supreme Court to be stricter after babies have been found in bushes, toilets, and rubbish bins.
Christopher Gilbert reports:
A spokesperson for the chief, Peter Kalmos Kalonpan, says too many mothers are abandoning their unwanted newborn babies. He says, for the most part, it is young women who move to Port Vila from the rural areas and get into trouble.
PETER KALMOS KALONPAN: Most of them come from the old islands of Vanuatu. They would look for some way to satisfy themselves. Getting into drugs, getting into alcohol and ending up having sexual relationships with partners they may come across. Most of them ended up getting pregnant.
Mr Kalonpan says he is not sure what the stricter penalty could be, but could include community work and serving a chief for a period with weeding and gardening. It's a message which is supported by the Presbyterian Church. A noteable Port Vila pastor, Alan Nafuki, says women who find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy need to be provided with support and educated on how to care for themselves and children. He says the father should be held accountable too so both parents are responsible.
ALAN NAFUKI: This has been happening because of ignorance and rejecting by the parents themselves. The girls they feel lonely and they have nowhere to go. Most of them decide to after (giving) birth, to throw the babies out.
Peter Kalmos Kalonpan says there is always community support available to new mothers if they need it in Vanuatu. But the Vanuatu Women's Council doesn't agree. It's president, Blandine Boulekone, says women are ostracised by the church and community during an unplanned pregnancy. She says they feel abandoned, and with few options for termination, can sometimes leave their child to die.
BLANDINE BOULEKONE: Where is the father? Where is the parents? Where is the community? Where is the church? Because it means these women they have problems, they are totally alone, and it is a pity. But we are sorry for the baby of course. We are sorry for both of them.
Mr Raymond says further contributing causes are poverty, a lack of orphanages, psychological distress in pregnant mothers, and a failure to utilise family planning services. But New Zealand's chief executive of Family Planning, Jackie Edmond, says unplanned pregnancies are an issue throughout the Pacific and there aren't enough sexual health support services.
JACKIE EDMOND: That is an issue across many Pacific islands. There are very few choices for contraceptives in the Pacific. So, that's a beginning. Followed by good systems and support in place for when women are pregnant and supporting them through that pregnancy.
Pastor Alan Nafuki says a one day forum with the government and stakeholders will be held tomorrow to discuss how to address the issue.
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