As much as one hears about the horrific stories and ways people fall victim to human trafficking, almost nothing is as heart wrenching as hearing about the victimization of children. The Age has written an excellent piece on how expecting mothers and their unborn babies fall victim to human trafficking.
UNBORN babies are being trafficked across international borders and born into slavery and prostitution, and are deliberately maimed and forced to beg, Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe says.
Mr Pascoe said pregnant women were coaxed from poorer countries with a few hundred dollars and deceived into believing their babies would have better lives. Instead, the women gave birth and did not know what became of their babies. They were not registered at birth and never officially existed.
Some were illegally adopted or their organs were removed for the foetal tissue for restorative or so-called health purposes. Some were recruited as child soldiers or groomed into athletes.
“These women travel and give up their child for various reasons: they may be coerced through debt bondage, have themselves become trafficked victims and become pregnant during their servitude, been offered monetary compensation and free maternity care for their child, or it may be that traffickers prey on their maternal instincts with promises of a better life for the child,” Mr Pascoe said yesterday in a speech at a child labour and exploitation conference in Cairns.
“Whatever the reason for the movement of the pregnant mother, one must have grave concerns that the child will not be born into a better life, but taken from the mother and forced into a life of exploitation which may also be quite short.”
Mr Pascoe told The Age he was prompted to expose the issue when, early this year, he was in the Golden Triangle around Thailand, Burma and Laos. “I met a number of women who were themselves victims of trafficking. They had contracted HIV and then were literally sent back to die,” he said.
“It’s hard to believe that this sort of wickedness would be out there.”
Mr Pascoe said it was an issue in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. He said the law was ambiguous when it came to protecting unborn babies, because of the debate about when a baby became a legal person. While this debate usually took place in the context of abortion, it should apply to babies yet to be born.
“Part of the problem is it’s so hidden. These children are the ultimate victims, they don’t even know where they’ve come from,” he said.
“We understand that some of them are used for sexual exploitation. They can be used for pornography from a very young age. It’s absolutely horrible. Some of them are deformed and then used for begging. They’re not born deformed but they are maimed and deformed and then used for begging because people feel sorry for them and give them money.”
He cited a case in 2004, in which Italian police arrested six people who had recruited pregnant Bulgarian women in the hope of trafficking their babies.
Save the Children child rights adviser Holly Doel-Mackaway said: “It’s hidden because there’s so much silence that surrounds this crime.
“When people are trafficking unborn children they are trafficking an entity that hasn’t taken a breath yet, that isn’t yet considered a human being.”
World Vision chief executive Tim Costello said it was dispiriting that the law did not protect unborn babies.
“They just disappear, and that’s what’s terrifying,” he said.
“What we know with child labour is these children are modern-day slaves.”
Attorney-General Robert McClelland told the conference at the weekend that child exploitation was abhorrent. “It strikes at the most vulnerable members of our society. It strikes at our very humanity.”