Video on infanticide among Amazon tribes troubles country

A video posted on the Internet showing infanticide in some Amazon tribes has reignited debate in Brazil over the controversial practice. But NGOs defending the rights of these minorities are accusing the campaign of being an attempt at manipulation.


AFP - A shocking video depicting infanticide among Amazon tribes has revived a debate in Brazil about whether the practice should be criminalized, or respected as a traditional belief.

The debate was given new vigor by the emergence of the video, which was posted online by the Hakani Campaign, an organization opposed to the practice.

The live burial depicted in the Hakani video is one of several ways infanticide is practiced among indigenous tribes, who also differ in their reasons for the tradition.

In some cases, the children affected are born albino or with birth defects and are either buried alive or abandoned in the forest.

Other tribes believe that sets of twins represent the pairing of good and evil and will kill the baby they think represents the latter.

But the film has been attacked by supporters of indigenous rights, who claim it was illegally obtained by Christian missionaries.

A spokesperson for the National Foundation for Indians (FUNAI) told AFP that evangelical missionaries filmed the video among the recently discovered Suruwaha tribe.

He accused the group of "interfering in the social interactions of people who have chosen to distance themselves from Western culture and preserve their traditions."

In statements on its website, the Hakani organization rejects claims that the video was obtained illegally, but it does acknowledge that the footage was filmed by members of Youth with a Mission, an evangelical organization that calls on its associates "to know God and to make Him known."

Survival International, a non-governmental organization that defends indigenous rights, cast doubt on whether the burial depicted in the controversial video is even real, and has accused the filmmakers of inciting racial hatred against Indians.

The organization says the film, which has been viewed by more than 500,000 people on video-sharing website Youtube, is a clear attempt to put pressure on the Brazilian government to pass legislation banning infanticide.

Since 2007, a group of lawmakers has been attempting to adopt legislation that would prosecute individuals who know infanticide is going to happen but fail to report it to authorities.

FUNAI has criticized the legislation, which it says would "punish indigenous people for their beliefs, their lifestyles and their worldview."

The organization believes the issue is best debated by Indians, anthropologists, human rights organizations and the United Nations.

The practice of infanticide will eventually die out on its own, according to Saulo Ferreira Feitosa, a professor of bioethics at Brasilia University and vice-president of the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Committee.

"Of the 250 indigenous tribes in Brazil, we think this practice still exists in only 13," he told AFP.

"This type of problem will not be solved with punitive legislation. If that were the case we would not have a million underground abortions" in Brazil, where the procedure is illegal, he added.

Valeria Paie, of the Kaxuyana tribe, criticized the legislation for depicting "all indigenous people as cruel."

Paie told AFP her tribe used to practice infanticide, but eventually discarded the tradition of their own initiative.

"We decided that it was an old-fashioned practice," said Paie, who works for the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon.

She called on the government to focus its attention on other serious problems facing Amazon tribes, including the suicide rate among indigenous children and adolescents.

"It is a much worse problem, because it's on a much greater scale, than infanticide, but the government has not done anything about it until now," she said.

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