Africa: Baby Factories Are a New Avenue for Illegal Adoption and Human Trafficking

Infant commodification and human trafficking are on the rise in many African countries. One avenue for human trafficking of this kind are 'baby factories' where women of childbearing-age are forced into pregnancy for purposes of selling their children. This type of internment subjects the mother and the child to unspeakable trauma, violence and abuse.

The increase in adoption over the last two decades in Nigeria has had the negative effect of escalating the illegal breeding of babies for marketing purposes otherwise known as "infant commodification". This is done in locations called 'baby factories' a term coined by the media to classify places where women are encouraged or forced to become pregnant and give up their new-borns for sale.

Reports indicate that several of these locations have been uncovered by the Nigerian police and other government agencies across the country with increasing number of pregnant women and young girls being rescued. The babies produced through these factories are often sold illegally to adoptive parent(s), used for child labour or trafficked for prostitution, ritual purposes, or organ harvesting.

In a journal titled, 'Socioeconomic Dynamism and the Growth of Baby Factories in Nigeria' the authors explain that the market base for baby farmers are argued to be enriched by various sociocultural factors demonizing childlessness and stigmatizing adoption, surrogacy or other form of assisted reproductive techniques. They go on to detail that the leading causes of baby factories in Nigeria include poverty, childlessness, lack of ethical behaviour on the part of medical professionals, and greed among others.

Pregnant women rescued

Recently the BBC reported that the Nigerian police freed 19 pregnant women from properties in Lagos. Most of the women in these properties had been abducted "for the purpose of getting them pregnant and selling the babies", a police statement said.

The rescued women who were aged between 15 and 28 had been enticed by promises of employment but when they arrived were held against their will and sexually assaulted to get them pregnant.

Police said that male babies would be sold for $1,400 and the female babies for $830.

The raid was one of several that have been conducted including one last year when 160 children were rescued.

One of the rescues told Vanguard newspaper that, "[A] woman came to pick me at the [bus] park and brought me here."

"The next day, I was summoned by our madam, who told me that I would not leave the premises until next year... So far, I have slept with seven different men before I discovered I was pregnant. I was told that after delivery, I would be paid handsomely."

Authorities will hand over the rescues to Nigeria's anti-trafficking agency and relevant authorities for rehabilitation.

The commodification of infants is quite steadily establishing itself as a major aspect of trafficking across Africa including Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Serra Leone, South Africa, and Uganda.

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