Friday, September 14, 2007

India: Baby Farming for Domestic Adoption Using Young Household Servants

An investigative team from CNN-IBN in Delhi, India has uncovered a trafficking scheme in which impoverished rural village girls, many of them tribals, are being recruited by employment agencies who ostensibly place them in larger cities as domestic servants. Subsequently cut-off from contact with their village families, the girls also fall victim to a much more sinister, profitable (for the agency) scheme.

According to allegations, the girls, while working for minimal or non-existent pay, also reportedly become unwilling baby-producers for the placement agency. Reportedly arranging to have the girls raped so that they become impregnated, the agency supposedly continues to monitor the girls (who continue working as domestic servants) as the babies are gestated. When the girls give birth, the newborns are, according to news reports, taken by the placement agency and sold on India's thriving domestic adoption black market.

The racket was busted when, after receiving a "tip-off," two members of CNN-IBN's Special Investigation team posing as an adoptive couple wanting a baby for domestic adoption, visited a particular Delhi placement agency with a hidden camera.

While negotiating a price for a baby, the investigative couple met both the mother of a child who had previously been adopted out and also the midwife who had delivered her baby 20 days earlier. During the meeting, the midwife and the agency representative, with the mother in question looking on, had a disagreement about the mother's age--was she or was she not an minor?

Apparently the CNN-IBN investigative team later followed up with the midwife who told them not only that the mother was a minor but also that:

"They [the placement agency] have been involved in getting young girls pregnant, making them give birth to children. Whoever they give the baby to, they take a lot of money from them."
The midwife insisted that she had been "smelling a rat for some time."

The investigative team called the local police who proceeded to conduct a raid. With information from the midwife, the police and the investigative team were able to locate the family who had bought the young mother's baby.

"The family [who had adopted the baby] claimed that they had no clue as to where the baby had come from. According to them, they collected the baby from the chamber of a lawyer..."
The infant was taken into protective custody.

Police subsequently returned to the placement agency. By day's end, they had arrested and/or taken in for questioning, the placement agency director and some agency personnel, the young mother, and the adoptive family. The lawyer who supposedly effected the transfer of the infant from agency to adoptive family was also located, but denied all knowledge of the situation.

The racket and similar ones involving other placement agencies, are being investigated by Delhi police. According to press reports, since the original arrest, several other young women who were being similarly exploited as baby producers have been taken into protective custody.

At last press report, according to North-West Delhi DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police--the ranking police chief of the area), the crimes that were to be booked in the case included kidnapping, rape, confinement, abduction (of the baby), intimidation, and the intention to commit all the above crimes.

The discovery of this racket has created special concern among those on the Delhi Child Welfare Committee. They have "asked for strong action against the culprits."

The racket has also created serious public concern in India, bringing into sharp public focus at least three related areas of concern--areas of concern that have helped make possible the exploitation of these minors as baby-producers for the adoption market:
  • the activities of placement agencies who routinely comb villages to recruit older children

  • the plight of domestic servants within India

  • the adoption climate--the market for and supply of adoptable children within India

  • and finally, the state of Indian laws that govern these activities
This blog post will look quickly at each of these concerns so as to better understand the news story.

According to news reports, an abundant number of placement agencies recruit children, mostly from rural areas, to work in larger nearby cities, most often as domestic help. Many of these placement agencies are not registered businesses, but rather transient entrepreneurial "mom and pop" operations run by a husband and wife team. Most placement agencies are not registered businesses; most do not keep records of their own activities. Many hire young tribals as agents to go from village to village to find the child workers and are paid according to the numbers of children they find.

"Supplying child laborers as domestic workers is big business for agencies in Delhi.
Once taken from their villages, the working children and their families are frequently, purposefully cut-off from communication with each other. A placement agency calling care is the only way parents have to trace their child and check on his or her whereabouts and safety. However, when an anxious parent concerned by the lack of subsequent to work placement communication from his or her child calls to check on the child, the parent is shocked to discover that either the calling cared phone numbers do not work at all or else the person on the other end of the line has no information on the child--in fact, he/she has never heard of the child. Concerned parents who continue to trouble agencies about missing children often meet not only with non-cooperation, but also threats.

One press report tells of a man named Ghusari who is missing both a son and a daughter:

The agent took my daughter later he threatened me that if I register a complaint with the police, I will not be able to see my daughter ever again.
In spite of nasty threats like these and a police force that is not always kindly nor responsive to the concerns of impoverished rural folk, rural parents DO file police reports asking for help in finding missing children taken by recruiters.

"The list [of missing children taken by recruiters] available with CNN-IBN shows that over 700 children are missing from Sarguja district in Chattisgarh. And this village, Cheerapara, is missing no less than 64 of its children....
What are the chances that these parents will see never see their children again? Father Theodore Lakda, director of an NGO which rescues children trafficked from Chattisgarh reports that 20-30 percent of the children taken by recruiters will never be seen again.

Some who manage to come home again, tell of long work hours, abuse, and all too often of failing to get paid for the work they have done. As for justice for these children and their families, it is rare.

In the last two years, reports of crimes committed against domestic help, many of them young people, have increased by forty percent, but during the same period, conviction rates for the same have stayed steady at ten percent of the total.

"Many activists feel believe that there's a predominant feeling within the civil society that because it's a domestic help--perceived to be a helpless creature--anyone can get away with anything. 'Yes, they sometimes feel that they are feeding and clothing a young person and there is no control or no standards imposed. They don't pay the salaries of these people; it's a total question of bonded labor.'

--Leila Baig of the domestic arm of CARA.
It is in this climate of exploitation, injustice, and disregard for basic human rights that the racket of exploiting young domestic servants to involuntarily produce adoptable babies for the black market takes place.

But what of the adoption climate in India?

According to Western popular knowledge and press reports, India is fairly overflowing with adoptable young infants--so many infants that Western adoption agencies beg for parents for these children. In such a climate, why would there be an adoption black market? Why, if there is an overabundance of adoptable infants, would anyone bother to gestate yet more adoptable babies and in a way that was clearly criminal--and so put themselves in danger of criminal prosecution?

With some thought we could imagine many possible answers to this question--perhaps Indians don't like the formal process for one reason or another, perhaps some people are shut-out of the process for one reason, perhaps the cost of a formal adoption is too high, or perhaps some people want to adopt in such a way that their adoption is secret or hidden, etc. etc. etc.

Rather than speculate as to the reasons why someone would go to the trouble of hatching such a scheme if the country were overflowing with adoptable babies, let's let an expert on Indian adoption--an official spokesperson of the Indian government's agency charged with overseeing and regulating the adoption of Indian children both domestically and abroad, answer the question herself.

Leila Baig, Secretary of CEVARA (the Central Voluntary Adoption and Resource Agency), a domestic arm of CARA (Central Adoption Resource Agency), was a guest on a segment of CNN-IBN's Sunday Special, an in-depth TV show that examines critical issues in India. The show's host posed this question:

'Just why do such cases [of exploiting minor domestic help to gestate babies for the adoption trade] happen? Are laws--or the lack of them--to blame? Is that the reason why trafficking of children is now becoming a part of adoption practice in the country [of India]?'

And Leila Baig of CARA answered thus:

"It's not entirely adoption laws which are at fault over here but there is a huge demand for children now. There aren't enough children coming into the regulated system."
A "huge demand for children now?"

"There aren't enough children..."?? interesting.

And it comes straight from the lips of a CARA official. You can watch the video yourself by clicking on one of the links below.

Demand for legally adoptable infants exceeds supply.

Something that we who have been watching the adoption climate in India--both domestic and international--have suspected for some time.

It could make sense of a good many things.

More on this later in another post.


Initial Video Which Broke the Story:
Exposed! Delhi's Baby Sellers Exploit Minors,, 2 Sept 2007

Corresponding Text:
Exposed! Delhi's Baby Sellers Exploit Minors,, 2 Sept 2007

A Series of Four Videos which comprise CNN-IBN's Sunday Special "Babies for Sale" (a longer investigative TV format looks at the issue in more depth and with expert guests):
Video Part I--Babies for Sale, CNN-IBN's TV show Sunday Special,, 2 Sept 2007

Video Part II--Babies for Sale, CNN-IBN's TV show Sunday Special,, 2 Sept 2007

Video Part III--Babies for Sale, CNN-IBN's TV show Sunday Special,, 2 Sept 2007

Video Part IV--Babies for Sale, CNN-IBN's TV show Sunday Special,, 2 Sept 2007

Corresponding texts for four part video report:
Text--Minor Mothers: Ill-Fated Girls Pawns for Sex-Racket,, 3 Sept 2007

Domestic Help: How Trafficking Takes Place?">Domestic Help: How Trafficking Takes Place?,, 2 Sept 2007

Follow up report:Welfare Board Takes Abused Minors into Protection,, 2 Sept 2007

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