Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Booming sale of the ‘fruits of the womb’

God has blessed mankind with various agricultural produce. Among them are fruits. There are so many of them such as paw-paw, orange, pineapple, cashew, sugar cane, apple, garden egg, water-melon, mango, pear, guava and others. Doctors and nutritionists advise that we should take a lot of fruits because they are beneficial to the body. They contain vitamins and a lot of other nutrients needed by humans. There is another fruit that is however not edible, yet very valuable. This fruit takes about nine months from the seed planting to harvest-time. The produce is called a child. The Bible in Psalm 127 verse 3 referred to a child as the ‘fruit of the womb’. There, the holy book also called children the “Lord’s heritage”.
Initially, we hear of people selling their sperm, blood, kidney and other body parts for money. Nowadays, the notorious trade has graduated to include sale of children. The ‘modus operandi’ is broadly threefold: There are those who voluntarily offer their biological children for sale; there are those who abduct children to sell; and there are those who cultivate them as you would any other farm produce. This latter category illegally warehouses teenage girls and gets young men to impregnate them after which offspring from such pregnancies are sold off like chattels. Why do people indulge in the sale of these ‘fruits of the womb’? What is the motivation? Are people trading in these fruits ignorantly or deliberately? What benefits accrue to the buyers and the sellers? Is this a legitimate business or illegal trade?
There are no mincing words that the sale of children is illegal, criminal and ungodly. Nigerian law too has criminalised the sales of children. If it were to be a legitimate business, many of the baby factories that have been raided by police in the last few years would have been left to carry on with their trade unmolested. Abduction, stealing, human trafficking and rape which are some of the features of this trade are all criminal activities.
It is most heart-rending that this crime is thriving in our country. There is hardly any month that police have not busted one baby farm or the other. It is true that the ugly phenomenon is more pronounced in the South-East particularly Abia and Imo states, however, similar discoveries have been made in Lagos, Ogun, Nasarawa and other parts of Nigeria. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, human trafficking, including the selling of children, is the third most common crime in Nigeria after financial fraud and drug trafficking. It is that bad!
The truth is that this illegal criminal business is booming due to the heavy demand by people. There can be no seller if there is no buyer. Investigations have revealed that many couples or better still women who are trusting God for the ‘fruits of the womb’, after a long wait, resort to child-buying in order to save their marriage from collapse. There are several accounts of women who having been married for long without a child or without a male child going to some baby factories that masquerade as orphanages or maternity centres to purchase children. Apart from buying children to avert divorce, desperate women also do in order to prevent their husbands from going into polygamy as well as to remove society stigma. Others buy children for ritual purposes or for child-labour.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerian and indeed African culture place premium on child-bearing. The Yoruba even have a special saying that “omo boriowo” that is ‘a child is greater than riches’. Any woman who fails to give birth to children risks domestic violence, divorce, stigma and disinheritance. In some African cultures, particularly among the Igbo and Yoruba, it is not even good enough to bear children but a woman is expected to bear male children or at worst a male child. The joy doubles when a woman bears a male child. That was what one of the old MTN adverts titled, ‘Mama na boy’ depicted. The advert was widely condemned for reinforcing negative stereotypes. Male children are relished as the pillar of the family. Yoruba call male child ‘opomulero’. It is believed that male children perpetuate the family values and legacies including the ancestral names, while women change their surname at marriage. Little wonder some enlightened women in contemporary times now bear compound names that incorporate both their own family names with that of their husbands. Male children are also believed to be stronger and more successful in life.
Having examined the motivation for the buyers, what about the sellers? It is basically economic. It is a means of poverty alleviation. A child is sold between N300,000 and N500,000 depending on the sex of the baby. That is a lot of money to poor people looking for short cut to wealth. According to a story in The PUNCH of May 24, 2013, a couple, Chibueze and Adaeze Mba, confessed that they engaged in child theft because of poverty. Not only did the couple steal other people’s children to sell, they even sold their unborn baby for N200,000.
Another question on my mind is, why are people not taking advantage of child adoption? Are they unaware of this alternative to child-bearing or is the process too cumbersome and bureaucratic that desperate couples or women will prefer outright purchase to adoption? Can government, marriage counsellors and faith based organisations start pointing couples in need of children in this direction? Again, how come neighbours and extended family members of those who buy children are not raising any eyebrow on how they suddenly come about a child without getting pregnant? Perhaps, the women buyers are Smart Alecs who are able to feign pregnancies for nine months and deliveries. I appeal to those involved in this illegal acts of selling and buying of ‘fruits of the womb’ to desist and find better solutions to their poverty and barrenness issues. If couples are having concerns about their fertility and would not want to adopt children, then they can take advantage of in vitro fertilisation or artificial insemination. Better still, they can wait patiently on God who has promised in Exodus 23 verse 26 that ‘none shall miscarry or be barren…’
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