June 2019

Infanticide in Senegal: Results from an exploratory mixed-methods study

Moseson H, Ouedraogo R,  Diallo S,  Sakho A. Infanticide in Senegal: Results from an exploratory mixed-methods study.  Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters. 2019. doi: 10.1080/26410397.2019.1624116

Abstract: This article presents formative research on the practice of infanticide, the intentional killing or fatal neglect of a child less than one-year-old. We hypothesised that the abortion law in Senegal, one of the most restrictive in the world, contributes directly to the incidence of infanticide. We conducted a quantitative survey of 1016 women of reproductive age living in Senegal, and in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of 28 participants. Quantitative survey data were analysed to describe the frequencies, means, and ranges of key outcome variables. Qualitative data were analysed using modified grounded theory to identify key themes in the data. Awareness of infanticide was moderately high (60.3%) in the survey sample, and was primarily obtained through personal experience, rumours, and/or the media. Participants described two broad categories of infanticide, including passive infanticide through abandonment of the infant, versus active infanticide through suffocation, drowning or other means. Participants explicitly viewed infanticide as a direct result of the severe legal restrictions on abortion in Senegal, as well as the powerful social norms that dictate what is considered acceptable versus unacceptable childbearing in the country. Findings support the hypothesis that abortion laws and policies contribute to the occurrence of infanticide in Senegal, and suggest the need for additional, targeted research to better understand this link, and how findings can be used to inform policy reform.