What is Infanticide?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 February 2020
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In criminology, infanticide is the homicide of an infant or newborn with the consent of the parents or family. Violent infanticide is usually committed by mothers, maternal figures or fathers and sometimes can be the result of postpartum depression or post-birth psychological issues. Infanticide also includes the selective abortions performed in some countries and cultures where female children have less value than male offspring, resulting in the female fetus being aborted. Other cultures murder children because of deformities or for religious reasons.

Many instances of infanticide occur because the parents do not feel they can care for a child who has a physical anomaly or is mentally impaired. Some cultures believe that a child born with a deformity or illness is cursed or is a bad omen for the community. The community usually believes that the mother is at fault for the child's deformity because of a bad decision that she made while pregnant, and they will require that she kill her newborn child. There also is a long history of killing one child when a woman births twins because she cannot breastfeed or provide nourishment and care to both children. Other cultures believe twins are dangerous, so both children are killed.

Child sacrifice was widely committed in ancient times. Children commonly were used as sacrificial gifts to the gods during rituals. Other times a father would reject the child, and the child would be left to die of starvation or suffocation.

Population control and financial concerns have also led to infanticide. Women or parents who cannot afford an abortion will wait to dispose of the child after the birth. Other times, shame causes women to hide the pregnancy until they can dispose of the child. In cultures where contraceptive use is rare, families may commit homicide of children because of limited resources and family pride.

Female infanticide is still widely practiced in countries such as China and India where economic concerns and population control has popularized the selective abortion of females. In China, where there is a limit on the number of children per family, female fetuses are sometimes aborted because families want male children who can carry on the family name. Sex-selective abortions in India tend to occur because the cost of a daughter’s dowry can be a burden to many families. Male children, on the other hand, are able to help provide for their families and will carry on the bloodline. Sex-selective abortion practices have caused a population disparity for men and women in these countries.

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Post 3

Is it true that female homicide doesn't happen among followers of the Abrahamic religions?

If that's the case, maybe leaders of other religions can help emphasize how infanticide is sinful or wrong for their religion and culture. I think people listen to religious leaders and follow their advice.

Post 2

I read that in rural South India, female infanticide is very common. Families are willing to have one daughter, but don't want any more than that.

I think one reason is because rural living depends on heavy labor and men can provide that more easily than women can.

The other, is of course, dowry as the article mentioned. I heard that a typical dowry is ten times the amount an average Indian family makes in one year. How in the world are people supposed to pay so much money?

I think the Indian government is trying to provide some financial assistance to prevent female infanticide, but it's not enough. I think that the government needs to enforce stricter regulations on dowry. Banning it ceremonially is not working, the practice is still going on.

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