Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Trade in Children

Under capitalism everything - and everybody - is a commodity to buy and sell .

In recent years, inter-country adoption has been governed by stringent international guidelines like the Hague Convention - designed to prevent trafficking and ensure adoption is in the best interest of the child. Liberia has not signed up to the Convention. Liberia's adoption laws were written in the 1950s and deal only with domestic cases. They make no mention of inter-country adoptions.

That loophole opens the door for anyone to set themselves up as a private adoption business and to operate with near impunity. Orphanage owners receive a state subsidy for each child they take. And some of those children can then be adopted internationally for fees as high as $15,000. The BBC reports .

"...Posing as a couple seeking to adopt to Canada, we went undercover to meet self-styled Bishop Ed Kofi - who runs one of the largest private children's homes in Monrovia from which around 100 children have been adopted in recent years. Mr Kofi bragged that the adoption business is in "full swing", and promised that for $5,000 he could arrange an adoption. Having met us just twice, he also offered to deliver a child to us - something which flouts all international guidelines on child protection. He shrugged off concerns about child welfare as "rumours"..."

Most of the children in orphanages like the one Mr Kofi runs are not actually orphans. Most have at least one living parent, many were placed there by desperately poor parents. Unscrupulous agents go into shanty towns and slum villages, convincing parents to give up their children on the promise of free room and board and a good education - something few families can afford. Most of the orphanages where the children are housed fall well below minimum standards. A UN report published in 2007 documented rampant abuse and neglect and "inhuman and degrading treatment of children".

Vabah Gayflor, government minister, and one of the most influential women in cabinet, said : "Many of these institutions have been established by people who are exploiting. People are getting scores of money out of this and they want to make sure that they stay in business. If you have Liberian children being marketed like this it's a shame. It is a shame."

It's a shame but it's Capitalism . Everything and everybody has a price

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