Child Trafficking and Illegal Adoptions

Two recent reports of child trafficking have yet again illustrated the necessity for greater vigilance on a worldwide basis.

Child Trafficking in Kenya

Revealing the existence of a huge child trafficking network in Kenya, the first episode of a BBC documentary entitled  ” Babies for Sale on the Nairobi Black Market,” was aired in November 2020.

In 2019, Director Peter Murimi, with co-authors of the investigation Joel Gunter and Tom Watson, were intrigued by local newspaper ads about missing children. They found that women with financial problems are coerced into selling their babies or are robbed. The infants are then resold by intermediaries to couples hoping to have a child; or, what is spine-chilling and horrifying: to people who organize sacrificial rituals of infants.

This is a thriving market due to the excessive pressure exerted on women to be mothers in this country. Maryana Munyendo, director of “The Missing Child Association”, explains: “As Africans, we have the cultural idea that to keep your marriage, you need to have a child, and on top of that, you also need to have a boy. If you don’t, you go back to the village where they treat you as barren, a dry piece of wood.  So, what do you do to save your marriage? You steal a child.” Sometimes even those who are as equally vulnerable as the mothers, steal and sell infants.

All the illegal paperwork is carried out in hospitals, including issuing false birth certificates. The documentary noted that “the police voiced great concern that local public hospitals, children’s homes in Nairobi and senior medical staff are involved, in collusion with child smugglers.”

After the first episode was aired on November 15, 2020, seven people were prosecuted for child trafficking. The day prior to the broadcast, Kenya’s Minister of Labor and Social Welfare announced that tough measures against this inhumane form of trafficking would be enforced. Nonetheless, according to some individuals interviewed, these remarks are only for the sake of appearances, since the government has known about these facts for a long time without ever acting.

Illegal Adoption Practices in Switzerland

In a second child trafficking incident, involving Switzerland, an official apology was given for failing to prevent illegal adoption practices. On December 14, 2020, the Swiss Federal Councilor Karin Keller Sutter voiced deep regret for the misconduct involving 900 Sri Lankan children adopted in Switzerland between 1973 and 1997.

The majority of these adoptions were illegal, sometimes with infants produced for adoptions through “baby farms” where native Sri Lankan women mated with white men to have offspring with a lighter skin color. In some instances, infants were placed for adoption without the consent of their biological parents. Intermediary lawyers were paid high fees; meanwhile Sri Lankan birth mothers often received no more than a few dollars or even just a Thermos in compensation. (AFP dispatch of 12/14/2020).

In 2017 a previous councilor had opened an investigation on adoptions that took place in the 1980s and an initial report was compiled in February 2020. It attests that despite early and clear indications of illegal adoptions, the Confederation and the cantons waited far too long before taking appropriate action against the irregularities.

After acknowledging the suffering of those concerned, the Swiss authorities announced the creation of a working group with representatives from the government, the cantons, and adopted persons in search for their origins.

The Swiss Federal system might be responsible for this mismanagement since adoption practices are not centralized and vary greatly depending on the canton.

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