Female infanticide was a well-known custom in the pre-Islamic era, also known as the age of barbarism. With the advent of the seventh century, however, things began to change and the practice became increasingly rare. Yet in this day and age, we find instances of female babies being asphyxiated and buried at the will of parents. The age of barbarism has perhaps descended upon us again. We are indebted to private charities like the Edhi Foundation who have been working to return grace and dignity to the innocent souls killed by their protectors by providing them a resting place. It is high time, however, that government agencies and law-enforcement personnel took the lead in investigating this ghastly truth about society. This is murder by all means and the voluntary killing of the 345 baby girls since January 2017 to April 2018 must not go in vain.
In Karachi, in the first four months of this year alone, the Edhi Foundation buried 72 bodies of female babies discovered in garbage cans or abandoned elsewhere. While we blame lack of education for parents who willingly murder their infants, the primary factor deserving of blame is weak laws and enforcement against infanticide. Pakistan Penal Codes’ sections 328 and 329 discuss child abandonment and child burial, respectively, but fail to name murder. These laws must be revised immediately as clear loopholes exist in the wording. Furthermore, the punishments outlined in the two relevant laws lack severity with two to seven years’ imprisonment terms and optional fines. The crime under debate is murder and that, too, of a defenceless being, which should carry harsher consequence.
Barbarism exists in this country and will continue to thrive regardless of what inroads we make towards modernisation of our cities. Karachi is often cited as the pioneer of modernisation in Pakistan but this title juxtaposed with the above statistics proves otherwise. Social change and awareness are desperately needed.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2018.
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