What is infanticide?

The popular expression used to refer to the murder of unwanted children, the term infanticide takes us back to a problem as old as humanity itself, registered all over the world throughout history.

Violence against children is a sad mark of modern society, registered in all social layers and in all around the world. In the case of indigenous children in Brazil, the added difficulty is that they cannot count on the same protection as other children, because culture is valued more than life and their voices are muffled out by the mantle of belief in unalterable and static cultures.

Every year, hundreds of indigenous children are buried alive, suffocated with leaves, poisoned or left to die in the forest. Dedicated mothers are many times forced by cultural traditions to give up their children. Some prefer suicide to this.

There are many reasons that lead to the children’s deaths. Those with physical or mental deficiencies are killed, as well as twins, children born out of wedlock or considered to be bearers of bad luck for the community. In some communities, the mother may kill a newborn baby, if she is still breastfeeding another or if the sex of the baby wasn’t what was expected. For some tribes the birth of twins or children with abnormalities indicates that the mother was promiscuous during her pregnancy. She is punished and her children are buried alive.

It is important to note that it is not only newborn babies who are the victims of infanticide. There are records of children of 3, 4, 11 and up to 15 years old being killed for many different reasons.

In certain communities, infanticide rates are higher among younger mothers. Lack of information, lack of access to public services such as education and health, associated with the absolute lack of hope for the future, perpetuate this practice.

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© 2008 Hakani - All Rights Reserved