Bad practices: Burying infant alive with their dead mothers

(21:41:39 PM 01/11/2012)
( - Infants are not only buried alive if their mothers unfortunately die during the labor process. Under the "dọ-tơm-amí" unsound customs, many infants who are still breast-fed are difficult to get rid of "death" if their mothers die. This backward practice still exists in the Central Highlands.


The ghost forest, where witnesses the terrifying image of the bad 
practices "dọ-tơm-amí". 

The Central Highlands is the home to many ethnic groups such as Xedang-, Brau, Ede, M”nong, Jrai, Gie Trieng, Bana, etc. but the above bad practices is prevalent among the Bana and Jrai – the two gentle, peace-loving ethnic groups who highly appreciate life of both humans and animals.

Life after life, the old Bana and Jrai people always remind their children to not kill pregnant animals when they go to hunting in the jungle, because such killing is killing both the mother and the baby and it is cruel. The violators will be severely punished by their villages. Yet the bad practices "dọ-tơm-amí" reflects the opposite.

Mrs. Y M'lang said not only infants are buried alive if their mothers unfortunately 
passed away while being in labor but also breastfeeding babies are difficult
 to escape the "death" if their mother die. 

The Jrai and Bana people are very friendly and rich in love. They are willing to invite strangers to drink, eat barbecue or join their banquets of mystical gongs. In their daily life, they clearly show their respect to the elder and tolerance to the subordinates and their hospitality. They especially love children, especially the children who are still breast-fed.

At Dip village, Ia Kreng commune of Chu Pah district, Gia Lai province, Ro-cham Luih, 76, a Jrai woman explains that the children who are still breast-fed is in great concern and attention because they are weak, they cannot take care of themselves. In the absence of adult attention, they will die of lacking milk, diseases or attacks of wild animals.

Many old people in the district of Kong Choro, Gia Lai province, revealed that through generations, Jrai and Bana people have attached great importance to the birth. Couples always try to have as many as children because they think that by the more children they have, the happier their families are. Their families will have more people to do work. 

Village patriarch Bok Nham (Bana) said that for that reason, infertile couples are worried because when they are old they will not have children to take care of them. "There are villages who believe that there are many children, their clans will be more crowded and more powerful," he said.

For this reason, having children and educating them is considered very important to Jrai and Bana women. This means that during pregnancy, the future mothers will have to undergo rigorous abstinence and Yang (god) worship rituals to pray for a healthy unborn child. The ritual to wish for easy child delivery is held at the third month of pregnancy, called abdominal massage ritual. Three months later, another ritual is held to wish for easy birth.

The ancient customary law strictly forbids and condemns woman from abortion. If abortion is discovered, that immoral act will be charged as idleness (not wanting a child), being cruel and such women will certainly be blamed and in contempt by their villagers. Yet why do they ruthlessly burry alive infants when their mothers die?

About 10 km from Kon Tum town center is Dak-Ro-Wa commune, where there are many old villages of Bana and Xedang people.

In the village of Kon JoDri, when being asked about the "dọ-tơm-amí" customs, many Bana women shuddered. 

Ms. Y Pla, 45, who has 5 children, nodded confirmation that this customs is real, not rumors. Ms. Y M’ Lang, 78, in Kon Klor Village said firmly: "If the mother dies, the child is taken to the ghost forest with the mother. If the mother dies, the child must die with her."

Asking many of the elderly of Jrai and Bana ethnic groups about this customs, they only gently smiled and shook their head, saying that they did not know when the customs began. They only knew that this customs has been transmitted from generation to generation. 

Under the pressure from the villages, most fathers do not dare to fight to protect their babies. They neglect the babies to be buried with their dead wives.

Mrs. Y M”lang said not only infants are buried alive if their mothers unfortunately passed away while being in labor but also breastfeeding babies are difficult to escape the "death" if their mother die. Depending on each village that the child who is convicted of "dọ-tơm-amí" is buried alive or abandoned in the ghost forest. Then if the baby does not die from exhaustion, the child will die of being bitten by snakes or being eaten by wild animals.

Elderly people who perhaps witnessed or involved in this customs simply explained that by living in deep forest where the life is inherently poor and harsh, if the mother dies, a baby without being breastfed will die of hunger so people believe that the "dọ-tơm-amí" customs will help the child goes to the world of ghost where he/she will be better care by his/her mother.

Just because of that simple and childish thinking that when their mothers died, over the years, a lot of kids died unfairly, cruelly. Although older people said the bad practices "dọ-tơm-amí" has been abandoned in their villages for a long time, but just think of the scene that innocent children were brought to the forests with wild animals and so many uncertainties that many people could not help but shudder.

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