The baby trafficking industry, where infants and toddlers are kidnapped from their birth parents and sold on the black market to wealthy adoptive parents, is not just serving American families anymore. It’s now booming internally in China. And the cultural value placed on male babies means that poor parents of sons are at even greater risk for losing children to the industry. In fact, the kidnapping of baby boys to be trafficked in China has become an epidemic.
Like other forms of human trafficking, the Chinese baby trafficking industry is driven by demand. China is full of couples who can’t conceive but want to raise a child, preferably a boy. But because of China’s one child policy, few healthy baby boys end up in orphanages, waiting to be adopted. Many of the children available for adoption have disabilities, and the process for adopting through traditional means is complex and expensive. So increasingly, couples are looking for ways to skirt the system.
To meet this demand, traffickers need healthy babies, mostly boys. They often travel into the countryside and either trick babies away from their parents (by, for example, saying they will send the child to school for a few years in Beijing) or simply kidnap them. Occasionally, traffickers will even stumble upon families poor and desperate enough to sell a child. Most of the children targeted are infants to toddlers — too young to remember their real parents when they grow up. For each baby boy sold to a Chinese couple, traffickers can make up to 4000 Euros, but only net about 2000 Euros per girl.
Sometimes, the traffickers can make even more money if they sell the baby to an American or European family. But international adoptions can be riskier, and the demand for children and couples willing to pay cash in China is attractive to traffickers.
Baby trafficking is against the law in China, but widespread corruption allows the trade to flourish. Claims of missing children made by parents in rural villages are not investigated with much gusto. And when a wealthy family shows up with a newly adopted son, no one asks to see the paperwork. It’s one of those situations where the rules on paper and the rules in life are very different. On paper, every child born must be registered and all adoptions appropriately vetted. In life, a couple well-placed bribes will get you a brand new baby, no strings attached and no questions asked.
We often think of the trafficking of children into adoptions as being an international phenomenon, but China is a great example of how baby trafficking can be internal as well as international. Where there is a demand for children and people willing to attain them in illegal and unethical ways, there will be traffickers willing to supply those kids.
Photo credit: Gunshots