INFANTICIDE. The killing of an infant or newly born child: often in a broader sense, the killing of an infant, whether entirely born, or in the act of being horn, or of the matured fictus in the womb.
As an institution or customary practice in fanticide has in most savage or semicivilized races, and still survives in many: as an occasional or abnormal act it has existed in all times and among all peoples.
Some authorities, as •AlcLennan, have claimed that the custom has been practically universal among primitive races: hut the researches of other investigators. as Spencer and Westermarek, have shown it to have been much less wide spread than this. Infantieide as practiced among curly peoples is to be traced ultimately to •on dithms of hard-hip attached to the bringing up of children. Thus among the Abipones, the women often practice infanticide, the boy was generally saeriticed: for When a son grew up it was necessary to buy a wife for him, while a grown-up (laughter would always demand her price. But this hardship more usually attaches to the bringing up of female children, and it is therefore the females who are usually killed rather than the males. This is said to be ewe chilly true of those tribes who are surrounded by enemies, and who are forced by their mantle! of living to lead a migratory life. The prac tice of killing female children among these peo ple often left the primitive hordes with very few young women, so that they were forced to prey upon each other for their wives. This by some has been considered to account for the rise and growth of exogamy: while others have (with less reason) attributed infanticide to the eu-tom of exogamy. In Africa, where the warm climate and the abundance of tropical fruits make tl ( condition; of existence easy, there are no well authenticated eases of the habit of destroying new-horn children.
The natives of two-thirds of the South Sea Islands practice infanticide probably more ex tensively than any other peoples known to his tory. 'the chief reason is probably the fact that the islands are of very limited extent, and are as thickly populated as they could be and support life by the natural products of the soil. In parts of Australia it is said that the mother destroyed all but two boys and one girl, while in Samoa and other Pacific 1-land, and in some parts of Australia the custom is unknown. Gen
erally speaking.. therefore, infanticide is most conmionlv observed among races living where the struggle for subsistence is most severe, or where custom imposes the most burdens upon those rearing children. The best-known instances of infanticide are those which existed iu various forms through India. but which are now mostly suppressed in the territory under the control of the British Government by a system of compul sory reporting of births and deaths and of po lice supervision in districts suspected of it. It was practiced among certain of the tribe, of low( r caste, as well as among the RaThuts, althouga forbidden by the Koran and the Vedas. Among sonic tribe's it was due to hardship attaching; to the procuring of the means of subsistence, and among others its origin. or the persistence of it, was due to artificial hardships attendant upon •hild-rearing, as among the Ila jputs, with whom it was dishonorable for a girl to remain unmarried, and the necessary expenses of her marriage were a ruinous burden upon the par ents. A similar condition obtains among cer tain of the American Indian- of the Northwest.
When infanticide has hecome established as a custom among a savage race. its practice. like all practices connected with birth or marriage, frequently assumes a sacrificial or religions im port, and it is by some considered to be the ex planation of the origin of the practice of sacri ficing children to the gods, the custom of exog amy as above noted. and other rites or ceremo nies. So. also the method of killing becomes. in many cases, a matter of custom, as by casting into the Ganges in some parts of India (whence the reverence paid to the alliga tor, which fed upon the childeen). or poisoning with opium or (latura smeared upon the mother's breast, or by sacrifice to some god. Where the practice survives as a sacrifice it is usually the boy child that is killed. Any change whieh makes child-rearing less of a burden tends to decrease or do away with in fanticide. It may. however, still be permitted or uryice as a means of disposing of the weak or defective. as was the case in ancient Greece, where the killing of weak children was enjoined in the ideal systems of Aristotle and Plato. and by the actual laws of Lyeurgus and Solon.