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Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK

World: Europe

The babies of Italy's bins

An Italian children's charity is placing adhesive stickers on public rubbish bins encouraging women not to abandon newborn babies.

The committee for the Alive Newborn in the Year 2000 - a small Rome-based charity - hopes its national sticker campaign will help stop the problem of unwanted infants.

[ image: Abandoned babies stand little chance of survival]
Abandoned babies stand little chance of survival
Since the start of the year, at least 13 newborn babies have been found abandoned in Italy, most of them dead.

Rubbish bins are the most common forms of dumping grounds, but babies have also been discovered in plastic bags, washing machines and cupboards.

Last month, a nurse was charged with the murder of her baby who was discovered dead in a rubbish bin in Turin.

The charity behind the stickers on bins campaign says its aim is to raise public awareness in order to achieve change.

Annalisa di Piero says law must change
"We have to have better organised hospitals and safe places where these poor girls can leave their children," said committee member Annalisa di Piero.

"We also have to change the Italian law. At the moment the law says that mothers who leave their babies are criminals so it is for this reason that women prefer to throw out their babies."

But others in the Italian community believe the problem stems from the loss of fundamental values.

Maurizio Fiasco blames urban decay
Sociology professor Maurizio Fiasco said: "In the big city there are pockets of urban decay where people have no idea of their rights or values.

"There are victims of domestic violence, incest, frightened teenagers, immigrant women who have been abused or who are afraid of losing their jobs."

Although contraception has become acceptable for many Italian women, abortion, although legal, is often not an option.

'Source of shame'

The children's charity says some unwanted pregnancies are still a source of shame in Italy.

It says many of the women who abandon their babies do so because they are unable to raise them and are afraid that others will find out about their pregnancy.

But while the campaign has attracted media attention, not everyone appreciates the initiative.

Franca Fossati is critical of the campaign
"It is disrespectful towards women and the public," said Franca Fossati from Italy's social affairs ministry. "The fact that some newborn babies have been found in rubbish bins doesn't mean it is a widespread practise."

Ms Fossati said any woman who wanted to give birth in a public hospital in anonymity could do so, but admitted that there were very few women who knew how to go about it.

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