The alarm first broke out in the state of West Bengal, where three babies were found in cookie cases: among the 11 detainees were doctors and officials
ELENA DEL ESTAL. DELHI (INDIA)
David and Desiree were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their two adopted daughters, but the reality was not what they had planned: shortly after the two sisters arrived from India to their foster home in the United States , the new parents realized That the girls did not really want to be there . „When they finally dared to speak, they told us the truth: they were not orphans, but had been stolen and sold. They even threatened them to lie in interviews with the embassy officials, “ said Desiree Smolin, an adoptive mother, when the media echoed her case.
It took the Smolin six years to find the biological mother of Manjula and Bhagya. In 1995, Lakshmi had sent his two daughters to a center in Hyderabad, where they were told they would receive a good education. Actually it was Action for Social Development , an adoption agency. He went to visit them several times, always seeing them from a distance. Soon they told him that for the best adaptation of the girls to the center it was preferable that he stopped visiting them. When Lakshmi asked to recover his daughters, in the middle they demanded a great sum of money impossible for her. In fact the procedures for the adoption of his daughters had already begun.
„We adopted Manjula and Bhagya because they told us they were orphans,“ David Smolin tells Lakshmi in a letter that the adoptive family also made public. At Christmas 2005 and thanks to the help of the organization Against Child Trafficking (ACT), one of the girls, already adolescent, reunited with his mother. An emotional videotaped encounter in which Lakshmi, embracing Manjula, repeats over and over again in tears that he thought he would never see his daughter again.
The case of Manjula and Bhagya is not isolated. Although there are no official figures on how many Indian minors have been adopted without the actual consent of their biological parents, the Office of the Crime Registry states in its last report that there were 668 cases of abduction for adoption in 2015 , A figure that has increased over previous years (407 cases in 2014, 160 in 2013).
The discovery of several baby traffic networks in late 2016 and early 2017, again evidence that diffuse line drawn between child trafficking and legal adoptions: baby robberies of clinics that ended up being given in adoption both within India as in other countries. The alarm jumped first in the state of West Bengal, where three babies were found in cookie cases . Up to 11 detainees, including doctors and health personnel, maternity clinics or alleged NGOs and public officials falsifying documents. Police estimate that between 45 and 50 babies could have been trafficked through this network and that 300,000 rupees would have been paid for boys and 100.00 for girls (4.150€ and 1.400€ respectively).
A few weeks later, another case in the same state came to light, with Juhi Chowdhury, Secretary of State in West Bengal by the BJP (same party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ), for her relationship with Chandana Chakravarty, director Of the adoption center Bimala Sishu Griha and alleged leader of this network of trafficking of minors .
Chakravarty stated that Chowdhury was helping her to get funding and licenses, and that she introduced her to other BJP members in Delhi. According to the police, at least 17 children between the ages of six months and 14 years of age who had been adopted by couples from Australia, the United States, France and Spain would have been sold through this network, paying between 10,000 and 20,000 euros per child. A total of 7 people were arrested in this case, including the Officers for the Protection of Minors in the districts of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling and a member of the Committee for the Well-being of Minors.
In India children can be adopted following the Indian Adoption Act of 1956 and the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000. In addition, as a signatory to the Hague Convention, it must follow the guidelines it sets. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is the only government agency through which domestic and international adoptions can be managed in India. Adoptions that are processed through another channel would be illegal. According to public data offered by CARA from 2010 to March 2017 more than 30,000 children were adopted in India and there were over 3,500 international adoptions .
Before the process begins, each child must be declared „free for adoption“ by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). This mandatory certificate is the official proof that the child is orphaned or abandoned. CARA Secretary Deepak Kumar himself explains to El Confidential in a telephone conversation that in order to obtain this certificate, the child’s information is collated with reports of missing children and an advertisement with information and a photograph of the minor is placed in the local newspaper (during two months for children under two years and four months for those over this age). If at that time no one claims the child and there are no reports that he is missing, he is declared free for adoption.
„In India, adopting a child without prior verification is almost impossible, “ says Kumar. And he vehemently states on two occasions during the conversation that children who are adopted through the government system of CARA are „almost negative“ and there are „very few possibilities“ that they have been trafficked. But the actual research done on the origin of children and the way these certificates are issued by the CWCs of each district raises doubts among organizations and activists who have for several years denounced that under the mantle of adoptions actually trafficking of minors is concealed.
„There are a number of allegations that people running some clinics often report to mentally unstable mothers or single mothers who have just given birth that their baby was born dead. Then they take care that another woman appears before the CWC with the baby, saying that it is hers and that she wants to surrender him to take care of him, „said a member of the CWC of the district of Jalpaiguri on condition of anonymity, according to the newspaper Hindustan Times .
„The moment we find them [adoption centers that deal with minors] we close them, and we will continue to do so,“ is the sharp response of Kumar, Secretary of CARA.
Convention VS Convention
This official response does not convince Arun Dohle, a member and one of the founders of the organization Against Child Trafficking (ACT) who signals the facility with which it is possible to convert to legal adoption what in the beginning it was not.
„Basically everything is decided on paper, and once the child has entered the system, what has happened in the beginning is somehow corrected. The following steps are followed and everything seems to be legal. It is impossible to see that it is actually trafficking in minors, „he says via Skype from Germany .
Dohle speaks from experience. It took him 17 years to find his birth mother. He was born in India and was adopted with two months by a couple in Germany. He always suspected that his mother did not consent to his adoption and was finally able to corroborate his suspicions when he first met her in 2010. It had been 37 years since his mother, who became pregnant without being married, left him in a facility to be looked after, not to be taken out of the country and given to other parents.
For Dohle the problem lies in the difference in approach between the Hague Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The second establishes international adoptions as a last resort and only if the possibilities offered by a temporary family, orphanages or shelters within the country of origin of the child have been exhausted. The Hague Convention, however, although it does not establish international adoption as the first option, it does relegate the other types of solutions to the last resort.
„You have to stop legal traffic and then you will stop illegal traffic,“ Dohle said. In several interviews he has been cited as a staunch detractor of adoptions, and for that reason he now very much needs his words: „I am not against adoptions, I am in favor of the rights of children . What I am against is the current system of international adoptions because it creates a regulated market for minors.“
There is little data on the benefits of international adoptions. The report on organized crime in the European Union of 2005 amounts the value of the „trafficking in children“ market to 1 trillion euros a year related to illegal adoptions, involving more than one million children.
David Smollin, who after his personal experience as the adoptive father of Manjula and Bhagya became a legal expert on international adoptions, has directed several investigations into these matters for the University of Samford in Alabama where he is director of the Center for Children, Law and Ethics. In his article “ Intercountry adoptions as child trafficking,“ he argues that since adoption costs between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000, „when that money goes to nations with a per capita income of less than $ 1,000 (and often less than $ 500) it is extraordinarily difficult to prevent adoption from becoming child trafficking.“
The conclusions of the same article add that, far from arguing that all international adoptions constitute the illicit sale of children, and „being certain that there are many international adoptions that are ethical, where money has not played any illicit role, however, The system as a whole is corrupt because it has no effective means to prevent international adoptions from degenerating into child trafficking. “
According to a report by Save the Children, between 50 and 90 percent of children living in orphanages around the world actually have at least one parent or family member alive and willing to care for them , Being poverty and not the lack of a guardian which leads the families to enter the minors in an orphanage.
When Arun gets one of the almost obligatory questions he says he is often asked, (that if he had preferred to stay in India instead of being adopted), he responds calmly but surely. „It is an unjust question because I have nothing to compare with “ – a nervous giggle escapes him and he continues „I had a life in India that I was not allowed to live because someone thought that I had to be rescued, and then I was rescued. I can only accept my life as it is now. I cannot say that I regret anything, but what I can say is that adopting me without the consent of my mother was a crime.“