Orphaned children of COVID victims in Tamil Nadu stand at risk of child trafficking menace
Several children in the State lost parents to the pandemic, and their relatives, who might not be fully aware of the adoption process, are falling prey to some messages circulating on the social media
CHENNAI: "Two years baby girl and two months baby boy... mother & father expired due to covid. To adopt contact (9xxxxxxxx5), Brahmin Children (sic)," was a message posted by a 30-year-old engineering graduate on his Facebook page a few days ago.
The message was shared to several platforms, even to a Indian Whatsapp group in Chicago before it reached Professor M Andrew Sesuraj, State Convener of Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch. Andrew passed on the information to officials concerned, to ensure the children’s safety. Unfortunately, this is not a one-off incident.
Several children in the State lost parents to the pandemic, and their relatives, who might not be fully aware of the adoption process, are falling prey to some messages circulating on the social media. "The persons who are sharing these messages may be doing it with good intentions, but child traffickers can easily take advantage of this situation. The kids might get sold for adoption, begging, child labour, flesh trade or even organ transplant. Enough awareness is lacking in the society on the legal system with regard to adoption," says Andrew.
It’s been over 30 years since the Juvenile Justice Act was formulated and this constitutes the children adoption process. Yet, the authorities have failed to educate citizens about this Act or the 1098 childline, which works along with government agencies like Social Defense, Child Welfare Committee, Social Welfare, and Juvenile Justice Board, among many others. The adoptions are regulated through the Central Adoption Research Agency (CARA).
It is high time that the government steps in. Firstly, awareness should be spread, and the government should earn the trust of people in these affairs. All institutions concerned should prove that they are foolproof. Secondly, a rapid survey must be taken up to identify the children who got orphaned due to pandemic," Andrew added.
Panel issues statement
Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights (TNCPCR) member V Ramaraj issued a statement on Saturday appealing to the public not to believe or forward a fake adoption request that has been recently doing the rounds on social media.
"The mobile number mentioned in the said social media post has been traced to New Delhi. Some people had even made this post their WhatsApp status," Ramaraj told The New Indian Express.
Taking advantage of COVID and lockdown, antisocial elements are spreading such messages and when someone contacts them, they charge money and discard the sim card after transaction, he added.
Lack of coordination
Child Rights activist A Devaneyan laments that the lack of interdepartmental coordination in protecting children has led to several issues. "These institutions are not child-centric but instance-centric. Instead of preventing a child from falling prey to traffickers, they concentrate on the cleanup measures," he said.
Several years ago, the Village Level Child Protection Committee (VLCPC) was constituted as a watchdog to prevent crime against children. "But, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has not met the village leaders in recent years. Every disaster renders some children orphans. During COVIDd, we are extremely lucky to have data on the people who tested positive and lost lives. With this data, the government can surely ensure that the hapless kids don’t fall prey to criminals," Devaneyan added.
Adoptions are monitored by the Central Adoption Research Agency (CARA). The process for children less than seven years entails background checks, visiting extended families, counselling prospective parents and regular follow ups.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Commissioner of Social Welfare Lalvena said that they have not received any information on children being given for adoption owing to social media messages, during the pandemic. He added that the number of adoptions in 2020 had increased compared to the previous year.
(With inputs from Madurai)