Sanaya Sahib: should society have done more?

As a society, do we share the blame for Sanaya’s death?

When news broke on Saturday of missing toddler Sanaya Sahib, it was natural to fear the worst. After all, no one in their right mind would grab a toddler from its buggy in broad daylight. Even the description of an African man smelling of alcohol with bare feet given by Sanaya’s mother, Sofina, was enough to trigger the response in most people that the child would never be seen again. 

However, doubts started to form about the validity of the mother’s when the police did not release CCTV images of the suspected perpetrator and the news broke that paramedics had been called to treat Sanaya just a week previous.

So, while it was of no surprise to see headlines report that 22-year-old Sofina Nikat had confessed on Tuesday night to killing her child, it’s important to look at the bigger picture before drawing conclusions about Sofina’s actions.

As a mother myself, I cannot understand how anyone could harm their own child, but that is not to say I don’t appreciate how these cases can happen. Gone are the days when young mothers, or indeed mothers of any age, had their parents and community to help with the reality of bringing up a child – as the African proverb goes, It takes a whole village to raise a child. Yet here is a young woman living under the roof of her brother, separated from her alleged violent husband, whom she met as part of an arranged marriage, with no support whatsoever.

Although it’s acknowledged that the Department of Health and Social Services has concerns about two men who were in regular contact with the child, no one has confirmed whether or not any support was offered to the young mother. And apparently no flag was raised when paramedics were called to treat the youngster for a seizure.

It’s easy to draw conclusions as to what happened and why but, until such times Ms Nikat faces trial, no one will truly know. And when she will face trial, if at all is in doubt, because there are severe concerns for her mental health.

The only thing that is certain is that a young child has been denied the chance to grow up and fulfil her potential. Sadly, she won’t be the last, as the support network for young families erodes every day, and the growing incidences of family violence and drug use pervades our society. So before we condemn the actions of Sanaya’s mother, perhaps we need to ask ourselves what we can do to stop such tragedies becoming commonplace.


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    14th Apr 2016
    If you equate society with its culture then it might be of value to consider what culture was this troubled mother responding to. What values from what culture from what society were at play in the mother's mind that caused her to kill the child of the father? Safina was the mother the child, Sanaya. But it was not enough to overcome the emptiness she must have felt. Commentary is cheap but one can't help thinking there was more in play than 'mental illness', that there was more going on at layers of depth.
    If this were a movie unfolding it would be the inciting incident that eventually lead to the conclusion that the father was a bigger psychological force than he should have been and that was because the of culture the parents came from.
    Why couldn't she turn to the agencies available in Australia? That is the first question.
    14th Apr 2016
    I don't understand the question "Why didn't society do more?". How can "society" be blamed if the circumstances leading to little Sanaya's death wasn't known?
    14th Apr 2016
    It's a case of someone who desperately needed help slipping through the cracks. How do you know she didn't cry for help? Is it fair to say that, because of her background, many 'Aussies' would turn a blind eye anyway? It's far too simple to 'blame' the mother, but that doesn't necessarily preclude her from being a victim. It's obvious she needed help, but who was taking notice?

    This is what it means when we say that society could share some of the responsibility. It's not a finger pointing exercise, it's a call for taking the time to think how we can prevent this from happening in future. What if it was your daughter, or granddaughter?

    Remember the days when a family all helped to raise a child; when a member of a community would see a child by themselves and make sure they arrived home safely; when you helped someone up if they fell in the street; when people rallied around a mother having a difficult time coming to grips with motherhood?

    I think this is something on which to focus, not shifting blame, but remembering that we are all part of a community, and we can all help each other.

    This is a value that has been lost throughout the years, be it through prejudice, desensitising, ignorance or simply lack of care. Harsh words maybe, but I'll stick by them.
    14th Apr 2016
    I don't think you can judge family support by white Australian values in this case. Clearly this family holds to another culture and the fact that this mother was living with her brother does not denote she had no family support at all. I have seen comments made by her family and they all seem to say they didn't think anything was wrong even on the morning of the event. This young woman did have support, she was not on her own even if she had left an allegedly abusive marriage. It may be true she was 'known' to authorities and this may need investigating whether all was done that could have been done. But she was also something of an 'actress' even to her family playing out the distraught parent and even fabricating a fairly detailed description of the supposed kidnapper. Mental illness may be a part of the cause of this child's death but it does not absolve the mother of responsibility. Nor does the obvious clutching of a copy of the Koran absolve her of any wrongdoing or potential punishment should she be found guilty of a crime.
    14th Apr 2016
    It is obvious there is some kind of mental illness at play here ... I'm not sure what you mean by 'judge family support by white Australian values' though? How do you know her family isn't also ashamed of their role in all this? (oh, I didn't know = absolution)

    She is a person, shouldn't we be discussing this sort of thing based on human values, regardless of her background and the type of book she clutches?
    14th Apr 2016
    I am pleased that I didn't look like a "black African man" in the area where the tragedy occurred. I can't imagine what hurt and fear they felt. More victims of circumstance.
    In Outer Orbit
    15th Apr 2016
    Spot on bebby, a very astute comment I'd say.

    Clearly a person may be both a victim of prejudice and injustice, and a very willing perpetrator of the same.

    More worrying, just what appeal to Australian negative stereotyping was possibly being made here - dark skin, bare feet, alcohol. And what does that say about the mother's perceptions of Australians' own propensity to prejudice and injustice. Why choose this for her cover story....?

    What did Michael Jackson sing about the Man in the Mirror? Something about rolling stones thro glass houses wasn't it?
    14th Apr 2016
    This just breaks my heart. What was happening to that poor mother? I cannot understand nor comprehend the horror she must have been going through. A young mother living with her brother after her relationship with the father of her child broke down down, I can not imagine her distress. When I had my children I had female family close by for support, and I doubt this was the case of this young woman. It is so sad that in this day and age, she couldn't get help. It was in a moment of insanity she killed the child (if that was the case). She has to live with this forever and my heart goes out to her. Most mothers have 'baby-blue'days and I fear this woman was no different.

    "... but she lied about the baby being abducted ...'. Yes, there is a fine line between insanity and sanity. It's too hard to go into the psychology of this, but have compassion for the woman and don't judge her.
    14th Apr 2016
    My first comment to my wife when I heard the mother's account was BS. The story sounded like it was out of some movie.
    The question is Debbie 'what has been going wrong in our society' to make people act like this? There certainly are no morals any more.
    16th Apr 2016
    Same in our household Mick. As soon as the story broke my wife and I labelled it BS.
    This isn't the first time a baby has been murdered and it won't be the last. Sad to say but true. How many babies have been murdered and dumped in suitcases in the last few years? One is too many but there have been far more than that. Those murders can't all be put down to mental health issues entirely, sometimes I guess the mother just finds it to be the easiest way out. I sometimes wonder how many drownings in backyard pools are accidents or if it is just any easy way for the parent/s to get rid of a problem child.
    14th Apr 2016
    Well Mick what has been going wrong is that our (excuses for) politicians have allowed people from a vastly different culture into our country, with predictable results.
    14th Apr 2016
    Hear hear, it has to stop right now.
    In Outer Orbit
    15th Apr 2016
    Pause for reflection.

    The white australia policy expired in 1973. Do the crime statistics really evidence that these were the 'good old days'?

    The movie 'Oranges and Sunshine' is pertinent - all about the industrial scale crimes against children by one aspect of the culture already in Australia.

    Surely child abuse and infanticide know no borders and never have done. These aren't crimes that can be influenced by border control. Ask King Herod.
    Nan Norma
    14th Apr 2016
    There seems to be an epidemic of child abuse at the moment. Every day we seem to hear of murder or cruelty towards babies and small children. I have asked myself why. Is there too much pressure on young parents today. I'd like your thoughts on the subject.
    In Outer Orbit
    15th Apr 2016
    We're told rates of depression are highest in the 18-24 year old age range now. These seem to be very hard times for young people for a whole host of reasons. Sure, they don't have to go and die fighting rich-people's wars like previous generations. But they do have to contend with dislocation and 'information' on an unprecedented scale - perhaps we're in exceptional times in societal evolution, when the older generation has little relevant experience or guidance to offer.

    I think we're in a period of intense change, and with a little further mismanagement it could easily all go horribly wrong and result in another wide scale conflict. Global corporate power, information and data power, already threaten the basis of democracies as we knew them. I'm an optimist that we will emerge thro this period into a new stabilty, but I think all Governments are currently floundering to identify what that will look like, and floundering to maintain the appearance of being in control. For young people, these must seem very anxious times.
    24th Apr 2016
    Maybe young parents should think twice before breeding! Forced marriage, abusive husband, why even start breeding!!!
    14th Apr 2016
    The mother looked guilty as she didnt look distraught enough. If you dont want your child place it up for adoption or foster care as there ate tons of people who would care for her. Sorry but I hope she doesn't hide behind mental illness and gets what she deserves. Australians would be mortified if they knew how many children are abused regularly. Try working in the legal dept of child protection or on the field as I did for 8 years and its a real eye opener.
    Nan Norma
    14th Apr 2016
    Pamiea. Not excusing the mother one bit, but don't forget, they said that about Lindy Chamberlain. We should not judge until the facts come out.
    16th Apr 2016
    Nan Norma she confessed!!

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