Young Unmarried Mothers Are Murdering Their Babies — We Need to Help Them Stop It

Sorrowful stories of maternal filicide and neonaticide — young unmarried mothers murdering or dumping their newborn babies — appear in newspapers now and then.

For instance, Premium Times reported one of such mothers named Ada, 18. Just after giving birth to a boy, Ada used a kitchen knife to butcher it. Rahab Musa, 23, of Gombe State University, flung her baby from the third floor of the student hostel smashing it to smithereens. On 14 July 2023, Blessing, 20, killed her newborn and dumped it inside a dustbin at Police Barracks in Yola Adamawa State. Again, on 18 July 2023, The Nation reported the finding of a newborn baby dumped and drowned in a river in Minna, Niger State.

Some of the dumped neonates get lucky: like the little soul dumped, but found near a hospital in Shira, Bauchi State, last August. And a baby boy abandoned on a farm at Wurya village, Gwaram LGA – the farm owner saved it, as reported by Daily Trust. Another was a boy, left, moments after birth, in an uncompleted building at Guru, not far from Zaranda Hotel, Bauchi. A hunter heard its cry at dawn and saved it!

I’m sure these stories are too familiar. You probably must have seen or heard more gut-wrenching cases of unreported maternal filicide. But, why do our young girls kill or let their babies die? Are they mad or bad?

There’s nothing wrong with our girls. Rather, I think there’s something wrong with us – the society. It’s not normal for a mother to murder her child. It’s unnatural. But when a young mother feels that her child will not be accepted by the society and will suffer stigmatization all their lives, she’s forced to ‘save’ the child by killing it – in altruistic filicide. Or when a young mother suffers from depressing and overwhelming shaming by society, she can kill or dump her baby.

There are other motives researchers say are behind maternal filicide, but these account for most of it given what we hear.

Now, to our young unmarried mothers, there’s nothing wrong or shameful about giving birth. What’s wrong is killing or throwing away your baby.

Again, what’s wrong, shameful and sinful is the extramarital sex that results in pregnancy. Just that, not the pregnancy, not the birth. And neither the foetus nor the baby bears blemish, shame or sin. For “every soul shall carry its own sin” says the Lord. If you don’t kill yourself why kill your blameless beautiful baby? Anyway, neither suicide nor filicide is a solution.

Remember, the Prophet said every child is born pure, innocent and sinless: “No baby’s born but upon Fitra.” (Agreed upon). When you slay such a sinless soul, you earn a place in Hell, says the Scripture and life in prison or capital punishment.

However, if you keep your baby, love it, nurture it, and raise it well, Allah will be pleased with you. Even your sins could be turned to goodness if only you add repentance to the good deed of caring for your baby and giving it good upbringing: for those who repent and do good deeds Allah will change their sins into good deeds; Allah’s Graceful and oft-Forgiving. So keep your baby, don’t kill or dump it. (Qur’an in Al-Furqan)

Importantly, parents, religious leaders and opinion makers should embrace and emphasize the principles of Allah’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, kindness and love enshrined in the Qur’an and to extend same to these unfortunate girls during their difficult times of pregnancy and after birth. These will comfort them and greatly reduce the chances of them murdering or dumping their babies.

Besides, political leaders can do many things to help these young mothers and reduce the incidences of maternal filicide. The government should enact laws and formulate policies that will care for and protect these girls and their babies. Also, the laws should  target stigmatization of both the mothers and their babies.

Further, lawmakers should consider decriminalization of abortion. Especially in cases of rape, incest and ‘serious mistakes’ that result in these unwanted pregnancies. There are Islamic authorities that permit limited abortion in the early stages of pregnancies of up to about 6 weeks. (Alfatawa Aljami’ah). So it’s easy to legalize abortion, at least, in such cases.

Our daughters need help. They’ve suffered a lot and still are suffering. At best of times, they suffer multidimensional vulnerabilities. They shouldn’t be left alone with the toilsome task of fighting the culture of shame and stigmatization of their babies at their most vulnerable times. Condemning them for their mistakes or worse when they’re victims is utterly unconscionable. The society must change and rise to protect them, show them kindness, forgiveness and accept their innocent babies.

Regardless, as a mother, you must be strong enough to not let anyone push you to destroy your bundle of joy.

Saad, a lawyer is the Acting Chairman of APC Publicity Committee. 

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