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Trade of Children (Voice of Children)
Some Disturbing Allegations from Voice of Children
"What seems confusing here is that one can still make fake papers to show that a child is an orphan, and it can be adopted in the same way as has been practiced earlier."
English translation of an article published in Voice of Children -- July 2008
Trade of Children in the Name of Protection
Most of the Children Homes established to protect the orphan children have been involved in trade of these children. These homes are buying children from Agents. They make fake documents to prove them "orphan" and send them abroad with foreigners as Adopted Child.
It has been found that there is a huge flow of money in this business, and persons with high social status like politicians, lawyers, retired police officers, journalists, government officials, and individuals from the tourism sector are also involved.
It's been found that owners of such children homes are earning a minimum of 10,000 Euro by sending a child abroad in the name of Adoption. The real parents of such children get only Rs 20,000, and the agents who bring children to these homes get Rs 5,000 to 25,000.
Smaller the children higher the price
Agents have admitted, in research conducted by Voice of Children, a child magazine, that they are involved in supplying children to these homes. Rita Bhandari (name changed), living at Putalisadak Kathmandu, admits that she's been supplying children to the children homes for more than 7 years. She has so far taken 63 children to the various children homes. She said, "Price is set according to the age and health of the child; higher price is paid for the children of smaller age. So, I prefer to seek newly born babies."
She once took a pregnant lady to the maternity hospital and sent the newly born baby to the children home. "Last year, I made Rs 20,000 for giving a newly born baby to Bal Samanwaya Samiti," she says. More than 20 such female agents have been found active in the capital alone. They manage to take children from the women working in garment factories, restaurant, massage parlors and labor women. These agents say that they provide money to the parents on condition that they do not reclaim their children once they have been given. After that, these children are turned into orphans by preparing fake documents. Like Rita, some other agents are Ramlashi Lama, Kalpana Rana, Krishna Gurung, Tara Shahi, Buddhalaxmi Baraili, Rima Shrestha (all names changed).
"We just get Rs 5,000 to 10,000, but they make up to Rs 800,000 to 1,000,000 by sending a child abroad," says Krishna Gurung. She has been supplying children to the homes like Sagarmatha Children Home, Buddhist Children Home, Sanjivani Children Home, World Nepal. She says, "Whenever I see a pregnant lady in a poor economic condition, I follow her. If you can persuade her with a sum of money, she readily gives you her child."
Rima Shrestha of Dhumbarahi, Kathmandu says that she supplies children to whichever home pays her the most money. She says "there is a big demand among the children homes for newly born babies." According to her, when she was not paid the promised amount of Rs 15,000 for supplying a 6 months old baby to Ms Mani Joshi, chairman of Prayash Nepal, she ceased to deal with her anymore. Now she is giving babies to Nepal Asahaya Children Home. But Mani Joshi declares that she is not getting babies from agents.
Mani says that whenever police inform her about finding children, her organization publishes notices in newspapers to claim the children if they belong to anyone, but if no one claims, we go into the process of proving the children are orphans. Rima says that she has so far supplied 9 children to Mr Hemanta Rijal of Asahaya Children Home. She says, "Most of the children have been sent to Italy." Another agent, Ramlashi Lama, says that Mr. Lokendra Khatri of Bharosha Nepal promised to pay high price if she brought children, but she didn't get paid. Shila K.C., a worker in a garment factory, earned Rs 15,000 by giving her 20 days old baby to Mani Joshi through an agent. "My husband didn't care to support me and our baby, and I was not able to manage alone to nurture my baby. Then I happened to meet Rima Shrestha at that time; she took the child and paid me. Now I hear that my child is in Italy with a well-to-do family."
Most of the persons working in these homes didn't want to come into contact with this reporter. If called on mobile, they would promise to call back and arrange time to meet the following day. But the mobile would kept switched off the following day.
Real Orphans or Fake Documents
Nepal government has formulated a law in B.S. 2057 regarding the Adoption process. According to it, a 21-day notice has to be published calling on the guardians or parents, if any, of the support-less child to reclaim. If no one claims the child, the District Administration Office declares such children as "orphan." The final decision regarding adoption of such child is made by the Recommendation Committee of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare. This 5-member committee consists of co-secretary of Home Ministry, co-secretary of Ministry of Law, a legal officer of Ministry of Women and Children and a representative from CNFN. A foreigner can adopt a child after getting approval from this committee.
According to a source from the CNFN, children are brought to the homes through agents. At first, the parents of such children are induced by offering a sum of money. Then with the help of police, a fake report is prepared stating that the child is support-less and found in a helpless state. On the basis of that report, a 21-day notice is published for re-claiming the child by its guardians, if any. In 2007, 387 and in 2008, 118 such notices have been published. What is interesting here is that no phone numbers have been included in such notices published by 58 organizations; instead only P.O. Box and the location of these organizations were given. It has been found that, in some cases, the photos of the children have been blurred in the notice, and they are not properly distinguishable.
According to a new provision recently formulated by the government, a notice has to be forwarded to the CCWB and Center for Finding Missing Children within 7 days of bringing a child to a children home, and a notice with a recent photo has to be published in newspapers. The re-claiming period has now been extended to 35 days.
According to Bijay Sainju, former chairman of the Committee for Monitoring Children Homes, the notices produced in newspapers about the children may not always be true. "How can you find a support-less child alive under Bagmati Bridge, in the jungle of Bankali, Swoyambhu, Katunje and along the river bank of Bishnumati river? This is all ridiculous."
According to Upendra Keshari Neupane, a member of the Recommendation Committee, once a child is proven to be an orphan, the committee cannot question anymore. "We know that there is a lot of non-transparency, but what can you do when they show you a document of proof?" says Mr Neupane. "It's completely impractical, in today's context, to claim your missing child from P.O. Box," says Mr. Dharmaraj Shrestha of the CCWB. But according to Mr. Binod Kumar Adhikari, co-secretary of Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, it's very difficult for the children home to approach the Ministry with a fake document, because the file is not forwarded if it is found to be a fake.
A Big Flow of Money
There is no legal provision for the payment when a foreigner adopts a child. But most of them have been paying 20,000 to 100,000 Euro. They pay half of the amount, during the publication of the 21-day notice, for agents, parents, registration and for other legal processing, and the remaining half is paid when they finally take the child with them. According to sources, foreigners have to pay even for the help of other children living in the homes in the form of donation which is normally 10,000 Euro. According to CNFN's (Child NGO Federation Nepal) rule a children home may charge up to USD 5,000 for the whole process of adoption. "CNFN takes Rs 5,000 from the children homes for its daily functioning of CNFN," says Mr. Govinda Adhikari, coordinator of the Advisory Board of CNFN, "If the money is taken from the children homes as a contribution to run CNFN, why should other children homes which are not involved in the Adoption program be included in the network of CNFN? The process is not transparent because there is no legal basis also as to how much one should pay for adopting a child."
According to Mr Bijay Sainju, advisor of CNFN, taking Rs 5,000 from the children homes means that the CNFN is protecting the illegal organizations and without any legal basis CNFN cannot charge that amount. Likewise, there is no legal basis for paying 300 USD to Nepal Children's Organization during the adoption process. According to the rules of Nepal government, an adopting parent has to pay the expenses for monitoring the situation of the children once they are adopted. This sum of money is used for the plane tickets of Minister, his/her P.A. and other officials. According to sources at the Ministry, all other expenses including lodging and food are incurred by the foreign organizations. But once the delegation returns, they again forward the bills to the Ministry. Last year, Minister for Women and Children Mrs. Urmila Aryal, after returning from monitoring, spoke out that she had to face a shameful situation there because of the lack of transparency in the process. She also said that there was lots of embezzlement in the monitoring process. After her remark, the Ministry postponed all processing of Adoption.
There are international agents who coordinate among the Nepalese children homes and the organizations for adoption in foreign nations. These agents are appointed by the organizations there. It has been found that there are 20 such agents from 8 different countries. Children homes provide the documents of a child to these agents. The agent forwards the files to his main office abroad. Those organizations then seek a family there. Such families study the files, and if they like the children, come to Nepal. Once they are in Nepal, the agents and the children homes bargain for the price on the basis of the child's age and health status. Once the price is fixed, the foreigners go to the children home. Then the children home initiates the legal procedure. According to sources, an agent makes up to USD 15,000 for arranging all of these things.
This reporter talked to all 20 of these agents; 19 of them admitted that they were involved in this business. Mr Ramesh Khatiwada is an agent working for Namaste Saludo Nepal with its office in Spain. He says that he coordinates among the children homes and his main office and takes only 10,000 to 15,000 Rupees for his service. Another agent, Mr. Basanta Rijal, working for AIPA, Italy, says that he is working on fixed salary basis. "I manage everything here and get the salary from my main office."
Another man, Mr. Uttar Tamata, working for Faith International, U.S., says that he was just "helping" his office, but not as an agent. These agents are not legally registered. "According to the new rules formulated by the government, 13 child adoption agencies have applied for registration," says Mr. Prakash Kumar Adhikari, a legal officer at the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare.
How did the Adoption Process stop?
The adoption business formally started in Nepal in 1976 A.D. There is no authorized number of children sent abroad for adoption between the years 1976 to 1981. Before the formulation of the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare, 532 children were adopted between 1976 to 2000 A.D. according to the Home Ministry. 2275 children have been adopted between April 2000 to January 2007 A.D.
Nepal Children's Organization, Bal Griha, Bal Sewa Griha, Prayash Nepal, Nepal Asahaya Ghar, Community, Environment and Children Development Organization Nepal, Swastik Bal Griha have sent greatest number of children so far. Those children were sent to Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and America.
After learning that one can make big money in Adoption Business, people from various sectors became involved in it. Former members of Coordination Committee of Nepal Children's Organization, ex-government officials, and peons have opened children homes; except for 2 members, all of the members of the Coordination Committee of the CNFN have their own children homes. There is a big network of agents, police, lawyers, politicians and ex-officials of Nepal Children's Organization and journalists. According to sources, 56 children homes in the capital and 2 in mofussil (*) are involved in this business.
442 files postponed in 2007 due to lack of transparency have been forwarded again on the basis of the same law, and 402 children were sent abroad according to Mr. Binod Kumar Adhikari, co-secretary at the Ministry. There was big diplomatic pressure from the prime ministers of 3 European nations (France, Spain and Italy) to the Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to open the ban on Adoption. An amended law was formulated thereafter in May.
What the Law says?
(i) Old provision
Before the formulation of the Adoption law in 2057 B.S., children were adopted according the Muluki Ain, 12b. In the new law of 2057 B.S., it was clearly stated the two conditions for adoption of any child: either the child has to be an orphan, or the birth parents should give their consent for adoption. For proving a child as an orphan, the children home should publish a 21-day notice for claiming the child by its guardians. If no one claims the child, the District Administration Office declares the child to be an orphan, and the file goes to Recommendation Committee where the final decision is made at the Ministry. In the second case, if the birth parents want to give up their child, a legal paper has to be prepared stating their consent. One of the parents has to prove that he/she has applied permanent family planning methods. After consideration of the file, if it is proved correct, permission is granted from the Ministry.
(ii) New provision
After finding various weakness and loopholes in the existing laws, the government formulated a new law in 2065 B.S. It was believed that the law would come into effect immediately after its formulation, but in practice, all procedures are going ahead according to the old laws. According to the new laws, the files registered in the D.A.O. till B.S. 2064 Jestha, would be processed on the basis of the old law. The new law though seems more effective but is not complete. There is a provision for a child psychologist or a doctor on the Recommendation Committee as recommended by the CCWB. Formerly, children homes used to seek the family for adopting a child, but now it should be done by a committee consisting of a legal government officer as coordinator, director of CCWB as a member, and a representative from the Ministry of Law as a member. The new law clearly states the role of Nepal Children's Organization. According to the new law, a child can be adopted if she/he is proved an orphan, or if the child is provided by the birth parents at their consent. What seems confusing here is that one can still make fake papers to show that a child is an orphan, and it can be adopted in the same way as has been practiced earlier.
An agent says:
"I am Rita Bhandari. I live at Putalisadak. My husband is a taxi driver. 7 years ago, a girl named Sita B.K. working in a garment factory at Boudha gave birth to a baby without a legal father. She was my neighbor. I was confused as what to do with the baby; then at that time I met one staff of Nepal Asahaya Balghar. I requested him to keep the child in the home. He replied that he would accept the baby, but it might be sent abroad also and tried to ask for the mother's consent. Sita decided that that there was no problem in sending abroad her child who didn't have a legal father, and hence left the baby there at the center.
A month later, Mr Hemanta Rijal of the same children home called me and promised to pay if I brought more children. With the help of Sita, I found other children. I used to get Rs 5,000 then. I even persuaded some parents not to reclaim once their child was sent to the home. I then started working for other homes also.
2 years ago I took a newly born baby from a mother at the Maternity Hospital and gave it to Mr. Binod Karki of Balgriha Samanwaya Samiti (Children Homes Coordination Committee). The sum of Rs 20,000 I earned at that time is the biggest amount I have ever earned. I have supplied children to several children homes. Women working in garment factories, restaurants, slums, hotels and labor industry give me children. I take them to the children home. I charge the price on the basis of the child's age. I can make up to Rs 20,000 to 25,000 from smaller children and Rs 5,000 to 15,000 for other bigger children."
LIST OF THE INTERNATIONAL AGENTS
1 -- Mr. Manoj Kandel
2 -- Ms. Mani Joshi
3 -- Mr. Tej Kumar Subba
4 -- Mr. Basanta Rijal
5 -- Mr. Sanu Prajapati Maharjan
6 -- Mr. Sharad Raj Gautam
7 -- Mr. Ramesh Khatiwada
Namaste Saludo Nepali
8 -- Mrs. Mukta Shrestha
Consul Lluis Belvis
9 -- Mr. Kiran Shahi
ECAI Bal Balika
10 -- Mr. Dil Pahari
Mani Watch / Victor
11 -- Mr. Arun Kumar Gurung
Children's Without Frontiers, Madrid
12 -- Mrs. Maya Tamata (Jaya Ram Tamata)
13 -- Mr. Binod Karki
14 -- Mr. Kiran Man Shrestha
15 -- Mr. Uttar Tamata
16 -- Mr. Keshav Regmi
17 -- Namita Lamsal
Holt International Children's Services
18 -- Kedar Dahal
19 -- Mr. Bhraman Shrestha
1. Florida Home Studies, 2. Amici Trenti
20 -- Jaya Rajbhandari
Florida Home Studies and Adoption
Voice of Children -- July 2008
Translation by Purushottam Lamsal for Voice of Children.
Voice of Children is a leading child rights magazine in Nepal. It is supported by international donors.
* definition of mofussil (for readers outside of South Asia):