The Consequences Of Infanticide: The Crime Of Murder

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Murder has arguably existed in our society since the beginning of time and is one type of crime that may never cease to exist. There are many different justifications made for people who willingly choose to end the life of another human being. However, one of the few types of murder that throughout time is inexcusable is known as infanticide. Infanticide is defined the crime of killing a child within a year and is commonly committed by the mother of said child. Nowadays, the crime of infanticide is split up into 3 categories, the category of neonaticide; which is the murder of a child up to 24 hours after birth1, is the one which will be the focus of this paper. In the past this crime was seen to be one of the most egregious and appalling as…show more content…
This statute stipulates that single women who give birth out of wedlock who cannot prove whether the child was stillborn will be assumed guilty of murder.3 At the time, those found guilty of murder were sentenced to death, a severe punishment. The severity of the punishment correlates with the negative opinions the community held for women who committed infanticide which will be discussed later in this…show more content…
As such, by killing her child, a women rejects her primary role in the household - to bear and care for children. This rejection of social norms is highly frowned upon by society from the 17th through to the 20th century. It is critical to note that the majority of the women who committed infanticide were of the servant class and had their children out of wedlock. A woman in this situation was seen as dishonourable which could cause her to lose her job and reputation. If a woman in this position lost her job, she would be unable to financially support even herself without a child. This was not the case for men who could engage in premarital intercourse without the negative backlash from society. In some cases in the 1600’s the public felt some compassion towards the offender. However, it was often times the neighbours or people close to the offender who found the child and turned her in to the authorities. For example, on October 15th 1679 a poor young wench confessed to the murder of her child and was convicted of the crime.8 This case is of significance because it is one that is stated to have invoked compassion from those involved. This is because the woman had been promised marriage but instead had a child out of wedlock which would lead to her loss of honour. While the

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