MALAYSIA now has a proud world record. We have become the first country to have pandas give birth so soon after arriving on our shores.
The panda gestation period is something between three and five months, so to have given birth just 15 months after her arrival in Malaysia is something special.
And those wily pandas had us fooled all along. Liang Liang was pregnant and even the veterinarians did not know about it. Just over a month ago, they thought it was a “false pregnancy” – symptoms without the real baby – and declared that the two were shy about mating.
But Liang Liang has shocked them with her baby. For the next two years, that baby is going to be the toast of the country. After all, she is the only panda cub in this region of the world.
Most pandas actually give birth to twins. They watch them grow and decide which of the two is stronger and fitter. Then, the mother lets the weaker one die. It’s survival of the fittest.
In loving hands: The baby panda being cared for at Zoo Negara.
But not all births are reason to celebrate.
When human girls give birth when they are barely 11, we have to stop and ponder. Are we still like those animals in the wild?
A man rapes a 10-year-old with no thought of the consequences. She would have been a child, in Year 4 in school. He is in his 30s, grown up and knows fully well that the girl is little more than a baby.
A year later, now in Year 5, the child gives birth. The grandmother thought it was normal pain, some thought it was a tumour in the stomach, but all those around her were oblivious to the fact of the pregnancy.
It was appalling, said Negri Sembilan state exco woman Datuk Norhayati Omar. And she is right.
And there was a baby death in Bahau. The days-old infant, born weighing less than 1kg, has died of complications.
It’s a tragedy every inch of the way, from the statutory rape, the pregnancy, the childbirth and the unfortunate death. Not one of those things should have happened.
The future of the girl is now in question. Will she be able to go back to school and continue with her education? UPSR is up next year. The innocence lost is gone forever, the trauma is here to stay.
The Malaysian case is not the only such case.
At about the same time, an 11-year-old in Paraguay also gave birth. She was raped when she was 10 by her stepfather, the man who had vowed to care for her like a father.
And the girl’s mother, who reported the abuse by the man, ended up in jail on accusations of neglect instead.
A friend and I once had an argument over the marriage of underage children. He believes it was cultural and natural back then. Of course, it may not be applicable in today’s society.
In many instances, the wild animal in us is still alive. As animals, we may have once believed that when a girl achieves puberty, it was time to have sex and babies. That, many centuries ago, was solely what women existed for.
But we have men today who have not outgrown that mentality.
A quick check on a list of young mothers in the world shows the youngest to be at just over five and a half years old. How do you get a four-year-old girl pregnant? It boggles the mind.
That was in Peru. There are many more. In Ukraine, a 70-year-old raped his five-year-old granddaughter and she was a mother at six.
A seven-year-old in India was married off because her mother had no money and she died in labour along with the baby.
In Iran, an eight-year-old was raped by a man who paid her parents to have sex with her. She was disabled and became a mother at nine.
Her parents continued with the business and more men raped her. She had twins when she was 14.
Then, she was condemned to death for “moral offences”, which included illegitimate motherhood. Luckily (is that even the right word?), she was saved and the sentence reduced to public beating and imprisonment.
My friend may have been right. We were all animals once. But we have come out of the jungles now and it is time the notion that female children are sex objects is nipped in the bud.
The writer, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org hopes they get the Bahau rapist and put him away for a long, long time. Meanwhile, may the little baby at Zoo Negara have a long, happy – and yes, lazy – life.