By Almas Shamim

Some of us may have read the brief news about an abandoned child being found somewhere around Foreshore Road a few days ago. The news piece received its share of comments in social media but the striking thing about the comments was that apart from those commending the boys who had tried to protect the child from the rain, a major share of the comments assumed that the mother of the child is to blame. In fact, the news piece itself judged it to be an abandonment act by an ‘unmarried mother’ (prima facie!). Now, it’s only natural that news of an abandoned child wrenches most hearts. It definitely should be treated as a crime and the perpetrator punished. But, amidst all the emotions and knee-jerk shaming of the said “unmarried mother” are we looking away from a few pertinent questions that the situation raises?

To begin with, we all assume that the abandonment was by the “mother” and the mother was “unmarried”. It could well be true, but the very fact that we assume so is a proof of our skewed thinking. The child could have been abandoned by anyone, for all we know, but the blame has to naturally fall on the woman since it is she who was born with the uterus! Assuming that indeed it was the mother who had abandoned the child, we are faced with some serious questions. What could have led a woman to do it. Was she forced into it? Why, in a country like India, where abortion of a foetus upto a certain number of weeks is legal, did the woman NOT seek abortion?

Probably, the woman was plain wicked- she just loved the idea of giving birth to a child and then abandoning it. This is what most comments sounded like. But, I shall try to leave you with a few other probabilities and hopefully it will make us think about the bigger picture and help us find solutions which are more than just blaming the woman. So, well…

Probably, she was too young a child to understand pregnancy or, for that matter, sexual abuse. By the time the family realized the child is pregnant, it was too late for abortion medically.

Probably, some family member himself was the perpetrator of the abuse, and didn’t want his act of sexual abuse to be leaked.

Or probably the family of the child, or even a grown up girl, was just too afraid of the stigma associated with an “unmarried mother” that it was decided to rather deliver the baby at home and abandon it THAN approach a medical facility for abortion.

Probably, it wasn’t an “unmarried mother” at all. Probably it was a married woman who conceived and very late into the pregnancy, her husband died and she was left with no source of income to feed another child.

Probably, the woman’s husband disowned the child- suspecting the child to have been fathered by another man- whether or not true, and demanded that the child be abandoned.

 The more we think, the more situations we can come up with, especially if we change the context and move it away from Port Blair. These probabilities raise questions of safety, social security, sex education, trust and stigma. What have we done to address any of these?

These are questions we must ask ourselves.

Abandoning the child was a crime but avoiding these major questions could be no less of a crime. When we blame women (and women alone) blindly for abandonment of children, we are, in a way, saying that the position of women is either so high in society that she is powerful to do as she pleases, or it is so low that she should bear the brunt of decisions taken by more people than just her! 

Almas Shamim is a public health specialist with a great interest in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and feminism among Muslim women. She currently works for an international humanitarian aid organization in New Delhi and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.