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Understanding filicide by Women in Malaysia
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posted on 21.02.2017by Razali, Salmi
Introduction: Filicide is poorly understood in Malaysia. Although filicide is of serious social concern, information comes mostly from anecdotal sources. There are no published systematic data about filicide in this country.
Objectives: This research sought to comprehend infanticide in Malaysia from three standpoints, the aims of which were (1) to estimate infanticide rates and describe the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of filicide; (2) to describe the perspectives of professionals who work with women who have committed filicide or are at risk; and (3) to understand the meaning of and background to filicide from the perspectives of women who have been convicted of filicide.
Methods: This research has three components.
(i) Secondary analysis of national data
Data from police records and the national registry about infant abandonment and infanticide from 1999-2011 were summarised to describe characteristics of victims and suspected perpetrators. Completeness and integrity of the data were ascertained. Using international criteria, rates of infant mortality, infant abandonment, and infanticide were estimated. Estimated infanticide rates for Malaysia were compared with rates in other countries categorised according to internationally recognised indices.
(ii) Semi-structured interviews with key informants
Professionals with experience and expertise in working with women who have committed filicide, have been convicted of filicide, or are at risk of filicide were purposively selected for participation. Semi-structured interviews, conducted in person, by telephone, or by email, sought their opinions on the social context of filicide, causes of filicide by women, and steps that could be taken to prevent it. Thematic analysis was used on English translations of interview transcripts.
(iii) In-depth interviews with women convicted of filicide
In-depth interviews were conducted in person with all eligible and consenting women convicted of filicide and incarcerated in prisons or forensic psychiatric institutions in Malaysia. Women’s accounts of their experiences and interpretations of their involvement in filicide were translated into English and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
Results: Secondary analyses of national data found that, from 1999-2011, 1069 cases of infant abandonment were recorded and 1147 people were arrested as suspected perpetrators. There were substantial missing data, with details undocumented for about 78% to 87% of cases and suspected perpetrators. It is evident that improvements in data-gathering and record-keeping are needed. The estimated inferred infanticide rate ranged from 4.82 to 9.11 per 100,000 live births, a moderate rate relative to the infanticide rates of other countries. Interviews with health and policy professionals revealed that they attribute responsibility to women for their failure to comply with social norms and religious teachings. In contrast, interviews with women convicted of filicide yielded evidence that others were implicated in the crime, that they had experienced lifelong violence and marginalisation, and had limited access to health care.
Conclusion: These research findings illuminate an inadequately understood phenomenon in Malaysia and reveal why the existing strategies to reduce filicide, which reflect the views of the key stakeholders, have had minimal impact. They reveal the pervasive harm of violence against women and children and its link to filicide. Results will inform policy, programs, and clinical practice in Malaysia.