MANY cases of baby dumping are born out of desperation on the part of women who are not supported financially or emotionally by the fathers of the babies.
Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) Coordinator for Gender Research & Advocacy Project, Dianne Hubbard said that Namibia’s strict abortion laws should be reformed to allow women increased access to pregnancy termination in the early stages.
Even the most liberal abortion laws in the world do not allow abortion at will in the last stages of pregnancy, after the foetus has become viable.
Hubbard said that post-partum depression, which would cloud clear thinking, is probably also a factor.
Many women are also unaware of the various options for dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, such as adoption and foster care, or the possibility of getting financial assistance through a State maintenance grant.
The African Charter on and the Rights and Welfare of Children requires states to take measures to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices affecting children.
In line with the African Charter, the Act contains a broad statement that ‘a person may not subject a child to social, cultural and religious practices which are detrimental to his or her well-being’.
One of the cultural practices of concern in some Namibian communities is child marriage. Early sexual activity and childbearing involve health risks. The Act contains several measures to combat this practice.
Firstly, it sets the minimum age for customary marriage at 18, to match the minimum age for civil marriage, which was set at 18 for both boys and girls in 1996. At present, marriage under customary law in some communities is allowed when the child reaches puberty but the age of puberty has been getting lower and lower in recent years, with many girls reaching puberty as early as age 11 or 12.
Setting the minimum age for all marriage at 18 gives equal protection to children who live under customary law and those who do not, and also brings Namibia in line with the African Charter which requires states to prohibit marriages for children under age 18. The Act also forbids forced marriage or betrothal.