Voluntary Childfree Women: Abandoning Infants by Domestic Servants and Street Beggars In Ethiopia

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Infant abandonment is a common practice across time and cultures. The primary reason for this practice is either the harsh financial circumstances of mothers and their inability to provide basic needs for their child or the women’s desire to hide their unsanctioned sexual activities, which resulted in the unwanted pregnancy and child. Nowadays, illegal infant abandonment in developed countries is uncommon due to improved access to contraceptive technologies and termination services as well as the availability of state organized anonymous adoption services, where the unwanted infant could be left. In some developing countries, illegal infant abandonment still remains a common practice. In this chapter, I discuss the illegal practice of abandoning infants by Ethiopian street beggars and domestic servants who had an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy and childbirth. Wishing to remain childfree and also having no resources for mothering, some women abandoned their newborn babies in hospital maternity departments, under the gate of missionaries’ houses, and simply in the market. I present this practice as a different type of voluntary childlessness that I witnessed while practicing in Ethiopia as a general practitioner for over ten years, from 1989 to 1999. In line with the theme of this anthology, I adopt the women’s perspective rather than mothers’ and infants’, although to most people these three perspectives may seem inseparable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Truth about (M)otherhood
Subtitle of host publicationChoosing to be Childfree
EditorsHelene A. Cummins, Julie Anne Rodgers, Judith Dunkelberger Wouk
Place of PublicationBradford, Ontario
PublisherDemeter Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781772582840
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2021

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