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Infanticide and its Legal Status


Infanticide is child murder in the first year of life. We define maternal filicide as a child murder by the mother.  Neonaticide is the murder of an infant within the first 24 hours of life. Almost all neonaticides are committed by mothers. Neonaticidal mothers are often young, unmarried women with unwanted pregnancies who receive no prenatal care.

Infanticide laws often reduce the penalty for mothers who kill their children up to one year of age, based on the principle that a woman who commits infanticide does so because "the balance of her mind is disturbed because of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child". The infanticide law allows mothers to be charged with manslaughter rather than murder if they are suffering from a mental disturbance.

However, women convicted of infanticide sometimes do not have significant mental illness as technically required by the law (so e.g. as per the definition of mental disorder under Punjab Mental Health Act).

The British 1922 Infanticide Act, which legally differentiates infanticides from manslaughter or murder, was introduced in recognition of the socioeconomic “stressors” that could lead unmarried women to kill their illegitimate newborn children out of the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock and to offer leniency in such cases.

Previous studies into the mental condition of women who kill their newborn children have reported that such women respond not callously and purposefully to self-preservation, but out of fear associated with shame and guilt of being pregnant and concern about the reaction of parents, partners, and others if the pregnancy is discovered.


In order to engage in the defense of infanticide for a mother who has killed our child; mental illness (e.g. postnatal depression or postnatal psychosis) can be used ...... also if no mental illness; then psychosocial circumstances can be used as a mitigating factor such as unwanted child, maltreatment or abuse by the husband and killing of the child by a woman to take revenge on her husband by emotionally torturing him.


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