Malaysia plans more baby hatches for unwanted babies

The double-storey house with its neatly-trimmed lawn and gate looks like any other house in the Kampung Tunku neighbourhood in Petaling Jaya.

But look closer and you will see a " machine" in the porch with the words "baby hatch".

This is where mothers can "drop off" their unwanted babies.

More baby hatches such as this are being planned in Malaysia to provide an avenue for desperate mothers to place their babies in a safe environment, reported The Star.

Cases of babies being abandoned have been the subject of media reports for years.

From 2010 until May this year, there were 218 baby dumping cases with 29 recorded so far this year.

There has also been an increase in cases - 91 in year 2010 and 98 in year 2011.

The idea to open the baby hatch was conceived by non-governmental organisation OrphanCare two years ago.

"We have had three babies from the hatch since it started in May 2010," said OrphanCare president Ms Faizah Mohd Tahir.

She said they would prefer that the mothers give the babies to them instead of just placing them in the hatch.

She added: "This is because there will be the problem of the children being stateless because there will be no information about them. They will still be given birth certificates but the citizenship is up to the National Registration Department and the Home Ministry."

To date, OrphanCare has facilitated the adoption of babies and has a list of about 1,600 childless couples waiting to adopt.

There are plans to open two more similar centres this year, one in Kota Baru and the other in Johor Baru.

Those who put up their babies for adoption are a varied group, Ms Faizah revealed.

They include Malaysians and non-Malaysians, teenage mothers and working women.

There are also cases of couples who have a child out of wedlock and give up the baby though they would be getting married, she said.

The baby hatch is open throughout the day, she added. If something is placed inside the compartment, an alarm will go off to alert the caretaker, who will be able to see what is going on via the security camera.

Lights and the air-conditioner will turn on automatically if a baby is placed in the hatch.

"The security camera is fixed on the baby. We will have no idea about who places the child there," she said.

More avenues

OrphanCare deputy president Noraini Hashim said it makes sense to open more baby hatches to provide more avenues for desperate mothers.

"Most mothers do not want to kill their babies. This is about saving the lives of babies," she maintained.

Agreeing with Ms Noraini, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Heng Seai Kie emphasised that the intent is not to encourage pre-marital sexual intercourse, but to save lives.

"We are supplying a safe place for mothers to leave their babies and not have them dump the children in bushes, rivers because they are afraid," said Ms Heng, whose ministry will work together with NGOs to establish baby hatches.

The idea of opening a baby hatch in Singapore was also suggested in Parliament earlier this month.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was fielding questions on how Singapore was planning to deal with its flagging birth rate when Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam raised the baby hatch question.

She said: "I'd like to ask a very controversial question.

"Will he (DPM Teo) consider (having a ) baby drop since Malaysia is doing that and we are having this population problem of not having enough babies?"

Thus in theory, at least, having a baby hatch would increase the actual number of babies born to Singaporean mothers and raise the birth rate, reported The Straits Times in July.

DPM Teo did not reject the idea outright, but stressed the need to be cautious about the kinds of measures Singapore takes to increase the birth rate.

"I think we must be very careful when we implement such measures, whether or not we end up inadvertently encouraging sort of unwanted pregnancies and births, causing greater problems as a result of that," he said.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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