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August 28, 2009

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Leniency shown for minor who killed baby

A 17-YEAR-OLD unmarried mother has been given a three-year suspended prison sentence for suffocating her newborn daughter, judges in Shanghai's Minhang District said yesterday.

The sentence means that the defendant, an Anhui Province native surnamed Fang, won't have to spend any time in jail if she behaves herself during that period.

Though the court ruled that Fang should have known her actions would lead to the baby's death, she was given leniency because she is still a minor and acknowledged her guilt.

"It's really a pity. Shanghai can provide abortions free of charge for young migrant girls. If she had only been aware of that, this tragedy could have been prevented," said Wang Xiaoying, a social worker involved in sex education for migrant youth.

Fang came to Shanghai a year ago after her parents divorced and moved in with her aunt in Fengxian District. Her trouble began when she met a man surnamed Hong, a minor from Zhejiang Province, in a barber shop. She told authorities she went to Hong's room last August and they had sex.

Fang became pregnant, and though she didn't want the baby, she lacked the money for an abortion, the Minhang District People's Court heard.

"I told only a good female friend about the pregnancy," Fang said in court. "But that girl was also a minor and didn't know what to do."

On April 29, Fang felt pains in her stomach. Her aunt accompanied her to a hospital but was unaware of the pregnancy because Fang hid it by wearing loose-fitting clothing.

Before seeing a doctor, the girl went to a lavatory, where she gave birth.

Fang said she panicked, put the baby into a rubbish bag and then hid the bag in the toilet's water tank.

"I didn't want others to learn about this shameful thing, so I hid her," the young mother said. "I didn't even know the gender of the child."

Fang walked out of the toilet but fell unconscious. Doctors became suspicious when they found blood on her and a cleaner discovered the bag in the water tank. By that time, the baby was dead from suffocation.

Shanghai has embarked on a program to provide better sex education and family planning services for migrants to help avoid cases like Fang's.

For instance, Baoshan District, a suburban area that is home to many migrant workers and their children, has launched a safe-sex education program for migrant youngsters this year.

Around 1,400 migrant youngsters living and working in the district have taken part in the project.

"It is difficult to find and educate these young people, for they usually do not have a stable home or work place," social worker Wang said.


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