Unwanted post-war babies abandoned or killed in North

By Chandani Kirinde, with extra reporting by Priyantha Hewage in Vavuniya

Cases of abandoned or murdered infants are alarmingly on the increase in the North, especially in areas that were once under LTTE control. In the past two months, four infants have been found abandoned and two were found dead in Vavuniya and Chettikulam respectively, according to Police and hospital sources. In all six cases the parents could not be traced, said a spokesperson for the Women’s and Children's Bureau attached to the Vavuniya Police.

The four infants found in Vavuniya town were wrapped in towels and abandoned near a bus stand. They were handed over to the Probation and Child Care Department in the area.

In Kilinochchi, the bodies of another four infants have turned up over the past seven months, while yet another six infant corpses were found in the Jaffna district. Many of the bodies were recovered in jungle areas. So far only one arrest has been made, in Jaffna, where a mother was produced in court in connection with the death of her infant.“There are a large number of war widows, many of them wives of LTTE cadres,” said a Vavuniya Police official, who wished to remain anonymous. “They are young and they get into relationships with other men who usually abandon them after living with them for a few months.”

There are some 40,000 war widows in the Northern Province, according to Government figures.
In cases where women find themselves pregnant, and with no husband to support them, many choose to abandon the child or, in extreme cases, even kill the infant. “They feel helpless and take the only course of action they can think of,” the Police official said.

Abandoned baby brought to Vavuniya Police station – the mother cannot be traced. Pix by Priyantha Hewage
Daily reports received by Women’s and Children’s Bureau, in Vavuniya. Pic by Lakshman Gunathileke
Vavuniya coroner views a dead infant.

One reason the mothers cannot be traced is that they get themselves admitted to government hospitals under false names and addresses. Illegal abortion clinics are not found in Vavuniya, unlike in towns in other parts of the country. Also, Vavuniya has limited outlets for birth control products.

“With the war over, people in areas that were once under LTTE control are facing social problems. They come to the Police looking for help. We don’t have powers to intervene in every case,” the Police officer said.

In Chettikulam, the town where the Manik Farm welfare centre was once located, a widow and mother of a child has filed a complaint with the Police against the man she had been living with for the past year. “She is now pregnant with his child and the man has left her. She wants the Police to track him down,” a Chettikulam police source said.

Most of the complaints relate to personal problems, and not all are offences that break the law, say the Police. “In such cases we can only advise the persons concerned. Because they lived for many years under the laws of the LTTE, they expect the Police too to act like the LTTE and mete out instant punishment,” the Police source said.

Recently, in Vavuniya, a woman whose husband was having an extra-marital affair asked the Police to arrest the man concerned, saying that that was how the LTTE acted when complaints of that nature were made.

“Many have little understanding of the law. The only laws they understand are the laws of the LTTE, which they lived under for years,” the Police source added.

Baby burnt alive

Police have arrested a woman in a village in Welankela, Mahiyangana, on charges of burning alive her day-old baby. The woman is alleged to have dumped the infant in a pit in a wooded area and set the trees on fire. The arrest followed a tip-off from neighbours.

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