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China Daily Website

Parents, abandoning kids is a crime

Updated: 2013-03-14 07:04
( China Daily)

Most media outlets have focused on China's adoption system and ignored parents who abandon their children when the need is to identify and punish them according to law.

An increasing number of parents are abandoning their sick and physically challenged children because they don't know that apart from being socially obliged, they are also legally bound to raise their offspring.

More than 86 percent of the respondents to a Nankai University survey said that perhaps it was unlawful to abandon a child but couldn't tell the reasons why it is unlawful, and 57.7 percent said they didn't know the laws and regulations on abandoning of children.

Although several laws and regulations, such as the Law on the Protection of Minors, Adoption Law and the Criminal Law, say it's a crime for parents to abandon or refuse to raise their children, their deterring effect has been rather limited. Article 261 of the Criminal Law stipulates that a person who doesn't fulfill his/her duty of supporting his/her minor child, or a disabled or any other person who cannot survive independently could be jailed for up to 5 years if the "circumstance is flagrant".

But few parents have been punished for committing such an offense. It is hard to find such parents because they leave few clues. Also, it is impossible for social welfare institutions where such children find shelter to collect evidence and sue the parents one by one. And being a vague definition, the "circumstance is flagrant" clause makes it difficult for judicial authorities to punish such parents.

More importantly, even if the circumstances are flagrant, a five-year term is the most severe punishment a parent can get. In fact, a father who abandoned his newborn daughter in Wenling, Zhejiang province, in 2012 was sentenced to only 2 years' imprisonment despite the fact that the child died. Besides, he was the first person in the city in 10 years to be sentenced to prison for abandoning a child.

The situation demands that the authorities take measures to educate parents, especially in rural areas, about their legal obligations toward their children, and the judiciary should issue a comprehensive interpretation of the laws and regulations on the subject to make them more effective and prevent parents from abandoning their children.

Punishment comes after an offense and, hence, cannot be relied on to solve the problem. So the authorities have to take measures to make the laws and regulations a more potent deterrent factor to prevent parents from abandoning their children.

(China Daily 03/14/2013 page10)

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