Is Sanaya’s death society’s shame?

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.

Written by Debbie McTaggart