In the Merriam Webster dictionary, infanticide is a term described as the act of killing an infant. Other sources describe it as the act of killing one’s own child, or killing of a child less than 12 months old. Female infanticide is more common than the killing of male offspring. More often than not, it is the mother who does the killing.
Infanticide has been recorded as far back as the ancient world, where they would abandon the infant by leaving it die to die of hunger, thirst, animal attack, or hypothermia. In some cultures they would drown the infants, and some used infants as sacrifices. Carthagians would sacrifice their infants to gods. Charred remains have been found in Charthagian archeological sites. Approximately 20,000 urns were found with the charred remains of infants. Interestingly, in ancient Egypt it was forbidden to kill infants. There are no records of infanticide in ancient Egyptian households.
Ancient Greeks did not believe in sacrifice for either a child or an adult, however, they practiced exposure of newborns. This meant that if someone wanted to get rid of an infant, they would leave it to be “rescued by the gods” or a passerby. Inevitably, the child would die from exposure to the elements, get eaten by an animal, or starve to death.
Infanticide has increased at a greater rate in the more modern times. Some of the factors that have historically affected the infanticide rate are human sacrifice, population control, poverty, devaluation of females, birth defects, and illegitimacy.
There are various religious views and stances on the subject of infanticide. The Jews were against taking of any human life, and forbade the act of killing an infant. However, there were several instances in the Bible of Hebrews sacrificing their children to heathen gods. The Torah clearly and explicitly prohibits infanticide because each and every life is considered a gift from God. Infanticide was rare and not socially accepted by the Jews.
Some early Christians practiced infanticide by exposing unwanted female infants. Church fathers warned against this because they believed that children that were exposed were more likely to be victims of incest and/or become prostitutes. In turn, they warned against having sex with prostitutes because they believed that it may result in a father having sex with one of his own children. However for Christians, as with the Jews, it was considered a criminal act.
Female infanticide has been accepted for centuries in many countries, and is more prominent in India and China than in any other countries around the world. It is illegal in India, however it is reported by Unicef that up to 50 million girls and women are “missing” in India as a result of systemic sex discrimination.
Infanticide occurs mostly in the poor, rural populations of India. Males are considered to be a source of income, and daughters are believed to cause economic burdens because of the high cost of...