Illegal Adoption Isn’t Trafficking?

I took another look at the Trafficking In Persons Report 2010 from the U.S. State Department. It gave definitions for what is and is not considered to be human trafficking.

What is NOT trafficking in persons?

Illegal adoptions: The kidnapping or unlawful buying/selling of an infant or child for the purpose of offering that child for adoption represents a serious criminal offense, but it is not a form of human trafficking, as it does not necessarily involve the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel services from a person. As stated in the travaux preparatoires of the Palermo Protocol, only “where illegal adoption amounts to a practice similar to slavery . . . it will also fall within the scope of the Protocol.”

My immediate reaction was to strongly disagree with this. My own definition of human trafficking included the buying and selling of any person, including infants. Why would illegal adoptions be excluded from the definition given in the report?

Sure, it counts as trafficking if the illegal adoption leads to slavery, but not if the infant is going to become part of someones family rather than become their property? What if it’s a 4 year old who’s kidnapped and sold to a loving family?

I can imagine a situation whereby a woman may have a legitimate reason not to keep her child and, at the same time, seek financial gain while trying to secure a better future for her son or daughter. Is it morally wrong for her to do so? Is it morally wrong for agents to assist her or for other people to pay to adopt under these circumstances? What are the consequences of successfully prohibiting the mother from taking this course of action? Although it may be illegal, I suspect that people will have radically different opinions on the moral issue. These are important questions to ask when creating laws against unjust actions.

Not every case will be the same as the hypothetical example I gave above, which leads me to realise that justifying new legislation on human rights isn’t going to be as straightforward as I’d assumed. Having considered how illegal adoption may or may not fit within the domain of human trafficking, it is clear that there can be no panacea and each case must be examined individually.

That’s not to say that we can’t have new anti-trafficking laws which cover illegal adoption…

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