By Elizabeth O’Brien

  BRASILIA, July 4, 2007 ( – A Brazilian university professor claimed that the practice of infanticide by indigenous tribes should be respected as a cultural practice, the Telegraph reports.

  Dr. Erwin Frank, an anthropology professor at the Federal University of Roraima, Brazil, is quoted in the Telegraph as having defended the violent practice, saying, “This is their way of life and we should not judge them on the basis of our values. The difference between the cultures should be respected.”

  Certain tribes believe that some babies are “cursed” and therefore do not have souls. Such children include those with physical disabilities, females (or any children of an undesired gender), babies born to unwed mothers, twins or triplets. These “cursed” children are sometimes smothered by leaves, poisoned, buried alive by parents or simply left to die of exposure.

  Dr. Marcos Pelegrinia, a doctor working in the Yanomami tribe district, stated that 98 children were killed by their mothers in 2004, the Telegraph reports.

  The non-profit anti-infanticide campaign group Atini, also known as “Voice for Life”, noted, however, that the exact number of annual infanticides cannot be pinpointed. Official agencies do not step in and stop the abuse for fear of meddling in local customs. As a result, the deaths of many babies are officially recorded as death by “malnutrition” or “undetermined causes.”

  The Brazilian couple that founded Atini, Marcia and Edson Suzuki, worked for over 20 years with the Suruwahara Indians in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. Mr. Suzuki described their mission, saying, “We are fighting against doctors and anthropologists who say we must not interfere with the culture of the people.”

  Referring to those who defend infanticide as part of a cultural tradition, Marcia Suzuki states on the Atini blog, “We respect the cultures and the differences, but above all we respect the human beings with no distinction.”

  At present, a new law that would abolish infanticide, called Muwaji’s law, is being debated in the Brazilian Congress, states the Telegraph. The law is based upon the fundamental right to life that is sanctioned in both The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Brazilian Federal Consitution.

  In an address to the President and Brazilian Congress this March, Mr. Henry Afonso defended the law, saying, “The practice of infanticide is not justified, however much anthropologists wish to defend tradition and cultural practices of certain peoples. The number of sacrificed children per year in this country is far from few; victims of a cultural practice that many times is more important than the most fundamental human instinct: Preserving life itself.”

  Read story by the Telegraph:

  Read full address to the Brazilian Congress on Muwaji’s law:

  Voice for Life blog: