9 November 2017

South Africa: Abandoned Children - Lost or Found(ling), What's in a Name?

opinion

In a country that does so little to prevent abandonment, make it safer, or provide optimal care solutions for survivors, the language used to describe abandoned children amounts to a particularly cruel form of victim shaming. Shockingly, those in authority are often the worst offenders.

In October 2017, the Danish government made the decision to instal baby savers across the country to allow desperate parents to abandon their babies safely. This, in a country where statistically, one baby is abandoned every year, resulting in eight fatalities over the last 13 years. By contrast, South Africa, where thousands of babies die every year as a result of abandonment (Gauteng, the only province to release statistics, has 600 annual deaths alone), and many others are left permanently physically or emotionally scarred through the experience, is yet to act in any way to prevent abandonment, or make it safer.

To make matters worse, abandoned children that survive are often labelled in pejorative ways, branded as "abandoned" on their birth certificates, issued with abridged birth certificates rather than the mandatory unabridged ones, or not issued an identity number because the Department of Home Affairs deems that they must be "foreign". By contrast, those that...

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