Skip to main content.

Deeper look into infanticide

Deeper look into infanticide

Picture of Tariro  Guwira
infanticide on the rise
Pregnant Teen

Pregnant to term and home alone, 18 year old Sofia Nyangani sneaked out into a nearby bush outside their Odzi home to self-deliver.

She wrapped her baby in a cloth and brought her home but then had second thoughts.

Her baby’s father had apparently long deserted them – like her own father before her lover.

Bulking in the physical pain and seeing only gloom in the life of her new born baby, she stuffed the screaming baby into an empty  10kg Parlenta plastic bag and went on to  bury the baby in a shallow grave in the family garden .

The disappearance of a pregnancy in the village without the evidence of the baby being as it is loud , back in the village ,elders instituted an investigation that soon revealed the infanticide.

Nyangani led them to the shallow grave site where the baby was dug up and sent to Mutare provincial Hospital for an autopsy which revealed that the baby was buried alive.

But when Magistrate Annia Ndiraya convicted her even on her own guilty plea recently albeit sentencing her to a few hundred hours of community service an uneasy silence swept the court room.

Outside people queried how such leniency could be exercised on such a grave offence in which life was lost.

Yet other puzzled at why she had to go full term with a pregnancy only to kill her child at birth.

“Pity will be on her side.

The law is lenient on mothers who kill new born babies because they would have been forced to do so due to the trauma surrounding pregnancy and delivery. The courts have a tacit admission that mothers are naturally protective of their children and this would have been a huge departure from that which could only have been induced by severe trauma,”said  Passmore Nyakureba a Human Rights Lawyer.

A midwife who spoke on condition of anonymity said  women  who committed infanticide often needed a lot of counselling to deal with what she said could be a case of post-partum psychosis due to the mental alteration due to hormonal imbalances or child bearing trauma .

“Often their mental state would have been gravely altered such that they cannot be held fully liable for their actions,” she said.

She however added the psychological burden of the act will stay with such a person for life.

“She will be traumatized for life .If she fails to have a child later in life or lose her child she will always think back with regret to such an act and hence a lot of psycho –social support ,”she said .

She noted that for teenagers the risk of infanticide is even made worse because even the extended family would often reject a girl whose parents would have rejected.

Dyson Masvingise, Zimbabwe Family Planning Council (ZNPFC) Manicaland Provincial Manager concurs especially considering that their bodies are not fully developed and they often would still be struggling with many other psychological adolescent problems to do with their identity .

The gross pain –physical and psychological can certainly “create a concentrated chance to trigger perpetual psychosis,” which Masvingise said could also lead to infanticide.

According to Wikipedia puer-peral psychosis “is a term that covers a group of mental illness with the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms following childbirth.

“A typical example is for women to become irritable have extreme mood swings and hallucinations, and possibly need psychotic hospitalisation .Often out of fear of stigma or misunderstanding women hide their condition,” he said.

 On Nyangani , Masvingise said it was unfortunate that she even did not get antenatal care and the worst thing that could happen to her was for the teen to single handily deliver in a bush .

“The trauma of delivery particularly for teenagers is a very difficult process .If fully qualified midwives prefer the first delivery to be made at a hospital where a doctor would supervise ,it only shows how fragile it is to deliver the first baby ,”said Masvingise.

Leave A Comment


Across the country, children are quietly being poisoned by lead, asbestos and other toxins. We'll share innovative reporting and testing strategies from two top reporters that can deliver urgent, high-impact stories. Sign up here for our next Health Matters webinar!