As we mark the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons today, I would especially like to reflect on the gains we have made as a country in regards to curbing trafficking in children.
One of the greatest achievements of our times is the ban on inter-country adoptions in 2019 by the Cabinet. This followed the moratorium placed through a Cabinet directive in 2014, suspending inter-country adoptions.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration did what no government had managed since Independence. He stood on the side of Kenyan children and against child trafficking cartels. This milestone is not just for Kenya but for Africa. This restored the dignity of our people, nation and continent.
While there have been genuine inter-country adoptions over the years, criminals have infiltrated the seemingly good cause of rescuing poor and abandoned children with the pretence of giving them a better future while the truth is they are simply in it for money.
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In many poor countries, child trafficking has often been done through care systems making the crime difficult to notice by law enforcement officers. Many times, perpetrators use and have the kindest language to cover what they are doing and to induce and recruit many into their systems.
Indeed there are some innocent officers who facilitate them without knowing they are facilitating evil and crime against humanity. They pass as philanthropists and loving religious people. Others pass as the most caring in our society. But behind the veil, worst of crimes are committed against innocent and voiceless children.
The other challenge is closely related to this. Because of their seeming concern and love for vulnerable children, perpetrators easily attract armies of innocent fans who harass and intimidate those able to see through the deception.
In several countries, those who raised the alarm, mostly professionals in the medical field, judiciary and social work have been framed or sacked to get out of the way of the cartels.
Initially, perpetrators start with what are commonly known as “abandoned babies”, who are in some cases simply stolen children. This term, “abandoned babies”, is mostly a cover to aid facilitation.
May be we should ask ourselves where all these “abandoned” children come from. More often these are lost children whose families did not manage to trace them while others are stolen in hospitals or lured from their homes or schools. These children are then reported to law enforcement officers as abandoned and taken to care homes. It is unfortunate that from some care homes, the dirty business of trafficking is planned and executed.
But how come children from poor countries are promised heaven in their new homes while some of those countries cannot tolerate people of different races born there? The many cases we hear about killings of people of other races in some countries should raise questions about the wisdom of giving away our children to people outside their country.
As we have always said, foreign adoptions are not as rosy as they look. Ideally, no child should be made a citizen of another country or race without their consent only for them to be subjected to inhumane treatment in the hands of chauvinists, sex predators, body organ harvesters and slave masters.
While we in Kenya celebrate the ban on inter-country adoptions, let us not forget that our laws and policies should always be for the best interest of the child. Let us never forget that every child has a right to be raised by his or her own family. The right to be raised by a parent is a fundamental human right. It is the responsibility of every state to ensure children enjoy these rights. All laws, including the Constitution protect these rights.
We recognise the need for alternative family care — either foster care or adoptions. These systems are envisaged for those rare instances where a child finds himself in need of protection and care.
But such cases must be determined by a professional in child protection who should always be guided by the best interests of the child and not in the interest of facilitators.
In Kenya, we have many couples who have adopted children and the children are doing well. We have many in the process of adopting and we encourage them to do so.
Whenever the need arises, a child should be adopted by a family of its country of birth, or people of the same culture and religion as a priority. This is in the best interests of the child. And that is how we shall completely end child-trafficking in Kenya and the world.
-The writer is CEO of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya. [email protected]