Ernest Dempsey — In his article State law and parenting – Another aura of moral legitimacy, Dave Scotese frowns upon the intervention of state in choices parents make for kids in routine matters, like transportation for example. However, state intervention may well be necessary when a parent becomes a threat to his/her own child’s life. What happened in Khanewal, Pakistan, the past Thursday may make readers shudder about what a parent might do to his newborn.
Daily Mail reports that a man in Khanewal, Punjab province of Pakistan, buried his just-born daughter alive due to his bad perception of the child. He felt like the child was deformed or “not beautiful” as some media sources wrote while reporting about the same incident. Announcing the child dead, he took it to his locality to start a funeral service during which the child uttered a cry and alerted people. Yet, the man wanted to proceed with his murderous plan and took the child on his own to the graveyard, and buried her there. The incident was reported to the police who arrested the man. Now he faces murder charges and may be sentenced to death if proven guilty of killing his infant.
This shocking incident, while certainly not the first of its kind, does call for serious consideration of the limits of parents in making choices for their kids. Scotese’s article, referred to above, discusses a different incident in California where a father made a choice about his child’s safety – with good intentions – but in doing so he violated state law. Perhaps that could be debatable whether states think better for kids in a number of matters like that one. But in a case like Khanewal, the situation is radically different and the risk factor is huge. The enormity of such cases come from the fact that a child has certain rights of which the most basic right is to live – to not be killed after (or even before) birth, let alone buried alive. To ensure this basic right, we do need an authority – one stronger than the parent or other like-minded relatives. This is where state comes in and has to intervene to make sure the right to live is granted whatever the perception of the parent, or others, of a child.
The sad part of the Khanewal story is that if the father is executed, his remaining four children are likely to suffer – emotionally and, most probably, financially – not to say of the poor mother who will suffer both for her dead child, her husband, and her would-be fatherless children. Parental crimes exist and they need to be stopped. And who else but states would take this role of the intervener. There doesn’t seem to be a ready alternative to this status quo, though one can always politely question why a couple wants a fifth child in a country where more than one third of the population lives in miserable poverty.