Children as commodities – The Express Tribune

Children are being bought and sold in Pakistan in all likelihood more often than makes a media report or attracts the attention of the police. Similarly and no less depressingly children are being married to older men for a range of reasons and all outside the law — but within established custom and culture. Poverty was the probable driver for the man who sold his newborn infant, one-day old, in Tando Allahyar for a mere Rs15,000. The child was sold to a woman described as ‘a maid’ and therefore herself likely to come from a poor background. The broker for the deal was another female servant and it was the mother of the child that reported the crime. The police are quoted as saying that the baby was sold to cover medical expenses — which begs a host of questions about the availability of primary health and maternity care for poor people.

Another report from Shikarpur tells of the police foiling an attempt to marry a four-year-old girl to a 22-year-old man. Although this does not appear to be a commercial transaction it is another case where a child is being treated as a commodity as the chances of a four-year-old girl choosing to wed of her own volition are vanishingly remote.

Although both cases are different, the commonality is that a child is being given in a deal that they have no part in or control over and would forever change their lives. The purveyor in each case may have different motives but the outcome is the same. As noted above poverty may play a part in what could be desperation on the part of the parents either for money to pay a debt, or to give a child to resolve a dispute, or to honour a standing agreement. And where is the outrage at these awful crimes? None noted.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2017.

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