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|Volume 11 |Issue 30| July 27, 2012 ||
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As a society, we have been witness to many crimes against humanity. Every day brings with it news of murder, rape, robbery, abduction, institutional torture, extra judicial killings, child abuse- none of it fazes us anymore. We shake our heads, write about it, talk about it and move on, but, over the past few years, some news items have surfaced which have not been that simple to digest. Each fresh incident continues to shake our hardened, cynical souls to the very core. They bring to question the essence of who we are and what we are capable of.
All over the world, the one human bond that is considered sacred and unbreakable is that of a parent and child. It is universally accepted and promoted by all religions and cultures that your child is someone you love unconditionally, cherish and protect. It is inconceivable that a parent would willingly violate this bond, but the following incidents (officially reported) occurred in our own country over the past three years that prove that this too is not impossible.
June 19, 2010- Six-year-old Samiul was strangled and suffocated to death by his mother Ayesha Humaira's lover when the child inadvertently found out about his mother's extra marital affair.
August 5, 2010- Distraught over her husband's second marriage, Bilashi Khatun set herself and her two small children Raihan and Rajani on fire. Khatun was the sole survivor.
February 27, 2011- Mina Khatun committed suicide after poisoning her four-year-old daughter Mehnaz in protest of the torture she was subjected to by her in-laws.
August 15, 2011- Ferdausi Akhter jumped in front of a train with her four children, Jibon, Bonya, Shaon and Jharna, over a family feud. Ferdausi, Jibon and Bonya did not survive the incident.
August 17, 2011- Ruma Begum jumped in front of a train with her two-year-old son Raihan after an argument with her husband.
January 3, 2012- Two and a half-year-old Ishrat Jahan Riya was brutally suffocated to death by her mother, Rozina Akhter's boyfriend. Akhter was involved in plotting and aiding her own child's murder after she realised her boyfriend would not marry her as long as Riya was alive.
April 23, 2012- Shamsuddin alias “Khasta Dakat,” strangled his nine-year-old daughter Mohana Akhter, with the help of an elder daughter and three others in order to set up another person for the murder, and grab his property.
April 8, 2012- Achhia Begum hung herself, her five-year-old son Asif and two-year-old daughter Khadiza from a mango tree after a bitter quarrel with her husband.
June 3, 2012- Lipi Begum committed suicide after butchering her seven month old baby with a knife as a result of a tiff with her husband that morning.
Unfathomable. Why? Is the first question that comes to mind.
These atrocities are unusual but not completely unheard of in other parts of the world. But in a society like ours, where parents insist on taking care of their children until they are well into their adult years, where parents are overprotective to the extreme, crimes such as these, and for seemingly trivial reasons, are far more shocking.
“These incidents are very, very rare,” says psychiatrist Dr Omar Rahman, when asked to explain under what circumstances a parent would commit such a crime. “Each case is very different and highly unusual. In a majority of these cases, there is an extreme disconnect between the parent and the child. If a parent child relationship is strong, the parent would rather die than let any harm come to their children.”
According to Rahman, in most of these cases, women who are the perpetrators, usually act out of tremendous desperation. Rahman explains, “When a mother feels that she has been abandoned, either by her spouse, partner or family, and believes that she is incapable of taking care of her children on her own, and that they will be unable to survive without her, that is when she makes the decision to take their lives. In most cases, she will take her own life as well,” as can be seen in some of the incidents listed above.
These acts are not always malicious. Mothers often tend to think of their children as extensions of themselves, who will be lost without them. According to some experts, there are a number of common reasons these crimes occur. The first is altruistic, as the parent will convince themselves that their children are better off dead. “In many cases, the parents are acutely psychotic,” says Rahman. A third reason could be a result of repeated battery and assault on the child, done to intimidate and discipline, which results in unintended fatality (especially in cases of Shaken Baby syndrome). There are also cases where the parents want to get rid of an unwanted baby, usually born out of wedlock. The fifth cause is revenge, i.e. when one parent kills a child to hurt/get back at the other. This usually occurs if their partner is unfaithful.
“Of course there are those cases in which parents kill their children for extremely selfish reasons, as can be seen in the case of the father who killed his daughter to get property, and the mother who wanted to marry her boyfriend etc” says Rahman, “These people are severely mentally disturbed and completely disconnected from reality. Postpartum depression or a host of other pathologies could be causes of this. Each case is unique,” he adds.
Post-partum depression occurs in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur immediately after delivery or up to a year after. Changes in hormone levels in the body during pregnancy may cause mood changes in women, although non-hormonal factors can also play a role. For example, changes in the body (putting on weight), changes in work schedule and social life, having less time and freedom, less sleep, worrying about being a good mother.
Mothers suffer from anxiety, irritation and feelings of unrest for a few weeks following delivery of the child. Most of the time, these feelings go away on their own, but if these symptoms do not fade away or occur one or more months after delivery, it may result in postpartum depression. Chances of this occurring is aggravated if the mother is under the age of 20, has alcohol problems, financial problems, was under stress during the pregnancy, was unsure about the pregnancy, has little support from loved ones etc. Postpartum depression can cause thoughts about death or harm to the baby. It is very rare that the mothers will act on these thoughts.
Experts also say that deeply religious people, who commit these crimes, suffer from a psychosis which encompasses religious themes. For example, a parent might kill their children who they believe have been committing sins to send them to heaven and prevent them from going further astray. In most cases killing new born and smaller children aged between 3-5 years is more common than killing older children who may put up a fight.
Another psychological condition that may cause a tendency to harm/murder one's own child is the Munchausen syndrome by proxy. This usually involves the parent being dependent on the child to draw attention/sympathy toward him/herself. They either directly produce or lie about illnesses their children suffer from to achieve this. They are willing to let their children go through unnecessary and painful tests to diagnose their symptoms, which are often exaggerated or imaginary or inflicted by the parents in the case of bruises and broken bones.
This psychological condition may be the result of certain deep rooted insecurities caused by childhood abuse or neglect or the early loss of a parent. However, in some extreme cases, parents may go as far as to take their child's life to get the attention they crave. An example can be a woman from Schenectady, New York in the USA, Marybeth Tinning who suffocated nine of her children, months, sometimes weeks after their birth, over a period of 14 long years, until she was caught, to gain the sympathy of her husband and loved ones.
Nothing but deep chronic psychological problems can explain why a parent would commit such a heinous crime against a helpless child. Sometimes though, it is good to take a moment to reflect on yourself, your behaviour toward and relationship with your own children. Between managing one's jobs, finances, social lives and taking care of the children, you can have extremely stressful lives, and it is so easy to get annoyed and smack your child when they irritate you. After all, that's what your parents did and you turned out okay, right? Some may even feel a release of anxiety having done that and a feeling that they have regained control.
However, it is very important to think about what that physical punishment has achieved. Child psychologists all over the world say that your child is more likely to learn good habits and manners given positive reinforcements and non corporal punishments as harmless as a time out. Every time you choose to hit your child, you are creating a distance, you are creating insecurities and resentment and you are creating a possibility of more damaging violence in the future.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012