By Humaira Taz
On January 31, ten American Baptists were held on Sunday in Haiti on accusation of trying to traffic 33 Haitian children starting from two months to twelve years old. Although the church members, mostly from Idaho, claimed that they were trying to rescue abandoned children or orphans and take them to a safe haven. They surprisingly failed to show proper documentation. A girl among those 33 children stated that her parents were still alive, and that she believed that she was going for a “summer vacation.”
Incidents like this are happening frequently in Haiti. Last week, UNICEF confirmed that fifteen children had gone missing from their hospital, and they are suspecting that they have been victims of child trafficking.
This phenomenon is nothing new for areas struck with natural disasters. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, instances of child trafficking soared. However, the case is unique with Haiti, where child slavery is legal. “Restaveks,” Haitian Creole for “stay withs,” are ideally supposed to be children born in poor families whose parents give them up for adoption to rich Haitians or people in the Dominican Republic or United States. Their children may get good food and clothes in return for casual household chores. The actual picture is nothing like that. The restaveks have to do inhuman amount of work and endure physical, mental and sexual abuse, all of are legal!
Since the earthquake, the applications for adopting Haitian children have risen from ten per month to 150 over a three day period. One U.S. adoption agency claimed it has already received over 1000 applications for children from Haiti. The concerns now are whether these potential adoptions are meant to help the distressed Haitians or are just traps in disguise to get a good supply of child slaves.
Before the earthquake struck, the Haitian government had just been considering protecting child rights and establishing laws against child slavery. As the situation stands now, that might be an extremely difficult goal to achieve.
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