December 4, 2022

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Abandoned ‘baby mailbox’ in Japan, a controversial life-saving idea

When the alarm goes off at the GKE Hospital in the Southwest JapanNurses run up spiral staircases to quickly collect abandoned newborns in the “baby mailbox” of the only medical center in the country.

This Catholic Hospital KumamotoOn top of that Islam Kyushu, The organization, created in 2007, allows a child to be given up anonymously and provides other services, such as a birth plan, anonymously. Japan.

These efforts drew criticism from the medical center, but its chief medical officer, Takeshi HasudaConsiders them an important safety net.

She explains to AFP that “there are women who are ashamed and very scared” because of the feeling of having “done something terrible” while pregnant.

“A place like ours that doesn’t reject anyone, (…) is very important” to these anguished young mothers.

As soon as they hear the alarm, the nurses try to reach the “baby box” with a carefully prepared little bed decorated with a pair of storks within a minute.

“If the mothers are still around, we encourage them to share their story with us,” she says. Sauri TaminakaA hospital worker.

The group tries to guarantee the mothers’ health, listens to them and gives them advice, and encourages them to leave information that will allow the child to know its origin later.

There is no one to turn to

Abandoned baby boxes have been around the world for centuries and still exist today, for example Germany, Belgium, South Korea Y America.

His comeback was criticized in some European countries in the early 2000s himIt deems it to be “against the right of the child to be known and cared for by his parents”.

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However, GKE Hospital believes that the Child Mailbox is a means of preventing child abuse JapanPolice recorded 27 child abandonment in 2020 and 57 child abuse deaths in 2019.

Dr. According to Hasuda, some of the children taken were “progeny of adultery, rape or sex”, and their mothers had none.

In total, 161 babies and toddlers, sometimes from across the country, have been dropped off at Jikei since 2007.

But there are continuing problems with system adoption JapanEspecially as a result of the traditional concept of family, according to Chiaki Shirai, a professor at Shizuoka University and an expert on reproductive and adoption issues.

The country uses a family registration system that covers births, deaths and marriages across generations of a family. This pillar of the administrative apparatus also shapes perceptions of family structure.

This has “embedded in Japanese society the idea that one who has given birth to a child must raise it”, with children almost considered the “property” of their parents, Shirai explains.

“Children who are abandoned and whose record indicates that they have no family, are severely stigmatized,” she adds.

Women pointing fingers

Despite the anonymity provided by the organization, child protection services usually try to find the families of abandoned children in GK. In this way, about 80% of them have found the identity of their family, and 20% have found their parents or relatives.

The hospital also offers a telephone helpline maternity It receives several thousand calls a year, and is an anonymous delivery program aimed at preventing unassisted home births.

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Although so far it has rarely been used (only two such births have taken place), the method is not unanimously approved and the government, rather than declaring it illegal, does not want to formalize it.

Chiaki Shirai emphasizes the Nadia women Baby mailbox Or often criticized for not choosing other alternatives, such as unmarked births, abortion, and legalization. Japan Although very expensive.

The doctor laments that society likes to blame women and their “motivation” to empathize with them or help them is “little, if any.” Hasuda.

(With information from AFP)

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