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  • Nov 21, 2014
  • Updated: 4:57am
NewsChina
WELFARE

Shenzhen to open baby hatch where parents can abandon unwanted infants

City to provide hatch where desperate mothers can leave their child

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 9:25am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 December, 2013, 9:13am
 

It happens so often in Shenzhen it is almost commonplace: a baby is abandoned by its mother on the streets, sometimes in a skip, or even in a public toilet near the factory where she works. The mothers are often migrant workers lured to manufacturing centres by the promise of a job. These young women are usually unmarried and desperate enough to abandon their child.

Next year the fate of these unwanted children may be a little more secure. The city will open a baby hatch where parents can leave their child without fear of facing charges or revealing their identity. The project has created widespread controversy, with many arguing it could lead to an increase in the number of children abandoned.

Other cities in the mainland are also starting similar programmes.

Xian, the capital of northwestern Shaanxi province, launched a centre for abandoned babies last week.

Such havens for abandoned newborns have also been opened in several other countries.

A survey by the Shenzhen official news portal sznews.com found 35 per cent of the 1,348 respondents feared the centre would encourage parents to abandon unwanted babies, while 17 per cent opposed it.

The shelter will have an incubator, cribs, a ventilator and other life-support equipment. It will be near Shenzhen's Welfare Centre, which has cared for more than 3,500 abandoned babies since it was set up in 1992.

About 90 babies have been abandoned in the city this year.

The shelter will not have surveillance cameras to ensure parents' privacy, according to welfare centre director Tang Rongsheng. Parents press an alarm with a delay of several minutes to warn they are leaving a baby and staff will collect the child.

Shenzhen journalist David Xiao, who has interviewed women who have abandoned and even killed their babies, welcomed the opening of the shelter.

"Babies will continue to be abandoned whether there's a safe place for it or not,'' he said. "The programme means all unwanted children and their mothers can be given a second chance at life.''

Xiao said that covering the cases of abandoned children had haunted him.

"I can't forget these babies. They all looked like little kittens and were dumped like a piece of rubbish," he said. "Their mothers were migrant workers with poor education and salary. Most of them were only girls. They just delivered their child in a public toilet or on the stairs and left, or even strangled the baby right there."

According to a survey by Guangdong's family planning department in 2011, about half the women migrant workers in the province have premarital sex. Of those, about half become pregnant at least once.

Single mainland mothers also face a fine and prosecution, as having a child outside marriage is a criminal offence.

If their boyfriends leave them, abandoning or killing the child is the most frequent result.

In the Baoan district of Shenzhen, at least 10 unmarried mothers, all migrant workers aged 16 to 23, have been convicted since 2009 of killing their newborn babies.

Xiao Hongxia, the founder of Modern Female Workers, an NGO that helps the city's women migrant workers, is pleased the authorities are taking steps to avert future tragedies.

"There are more than five million female migrant workers in Shenzhen. Most were born in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the government did too little to take care of them or teach them how to protect themselves and have safe sex," she said.

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This article is now closed to comments

ohyeahar
This sounds similar to the "safe-haven law" in the US which is great. There's controversy as to whether or not this encourages people to abandon their babies. But it has stood the test of time and it's definitely helped a lot more than harmed. I hope the rest of the PRC (and HK) adopt this shortly. There's absolutely no reason for there to be stories about babies being dumped in the trash or down a toilet in a shady hotel.
josephbrahmana
Wonder where "Morality" goes...?
caractacus
An ancient evil left over from imperial China where baby girls were routinely abandoned or killed as being worthless.
The response of the authorities is totally appropriate and will hopefully help to curb the practice. At least it will save a lot of babies.
Sifu_628
These tragic cases require a practical approach. Punishing the mother or the children is wrong, and helping those who are so desperate reflects the humanity in us all. In China where the top 2% consume 35% of the world's luxury goods and services, while the bottom 70% (1 billion people) live at a subsistence level, much more should be done to ensure the vast majority of people without special connection or quanxi can share in economic and social advancements and opportunities. Children borne to impoverished parents in dire circumstances require our help and attention. Who knows what they can become with our help. Everyone of God's children deserve love and our protection. Please remember them during this season of Advent.
ramsay
What could possibly be "moral" about leaving babies to die?
peye3515
Morality ? Of course a person would first of all have to know what the word means, as well as how it should be practiced and why.
cheechee129
What a measure it is! The government is trying to rationalise the irresponsible behaviour of the people.
maureen.tan
This shows how inhuman the human being has becomes even in this century !?

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