Baby-selling rackets may involve kidnapping

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PETALING JAYA: Couples who buy babies from baby-selling syndicates risk getting children who have been kidnapped, says child rights activist James Nayagam in a comment on a documentary recently aired by Al Jazeera.

According to the documentary, “Malaysia: Babies for Sale”, the trade sees women and children preyed on by traffickers, doctors and corrupt government officials. It said childless couples would turn to buying babies from racketeers because of the long and complicated process they would have to go through to legally adopt children in Malaysia.

Nayagam said there was a high chance that many of the babies had been kidnapped from their mothers.

“There could be baby-switching and baby-snatching inside clinics,” he said. “I’ve come across inside jobs where they snatch the baby and tell the mother that the baby has died.

“Baby-snatching syndicates exist. It’s big money. Most of them are inside jobs.”

He said these clinics, mostly illegal, preyed on single mothers, illegal immigrants and students.

“The syndicate is informed that there is a single mother or illegal immigrant that has come in with the baby. The staff then work together. It is a rampant thing that the authorities should check.”

Nayagam pointed out that migrant workers are not allowed to have children in Malaysia. “They have to go back to their home country if they have a child. Usually they give up the child. A third party comes in and takes the child.”

According to Al Jazeera, the value of a baby is highest when it is a boy and light skinned. Aside from gender and skin colour, most would-be adoptive parents also factor in the ethnicity and weight of the child to determine the final price.

Nayagam agreed. “If it is a boy,” he said, “the price gets higher. A girl goes for less. If it’s Chinese, the price is extremely high. If there is a birth certificate, even higher.”

Speaking of his experience with such cases, he said, he had been approached before by couples who had bought their children from racketeers and were worried over legal issues.

His first recourse is usually to let the authorities know of the matter. The authorities have been “very kind and understanding”, he said.

“After that, we apply to the court to make the adoption legal.

“So far that has been the only course of action for such couples. I would encourage couples to be open and make a report with the Registration Department. They can hire a lawyer to put in an official application for adoption to the court.

“Couples have been able to rectify the situation by this method. My advice to couples is that they should pursue the legal method right from the beginning.”