Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Baby factories continue to thrive in Nigeria

Child traffickers often abduct girls and young women, take them to isolated locations and impregnate them. When they give birth, their babies are sold to childless couples. The practice has existed for years in Nigeria.

So-called baby making factories are facilities in Nigeria to which girls and young women are lured, impregnated and held against their will until they give birth.

The "factories" are usually small, illegal facilities parading as private medical clinics that house pregnant women and subsequently offer their babies for sale.

In some cases, young women have been held against their will and raped before their babies are sold on the black market.

The practice is largely prevalent in the southeastern states of Abia, Lagos, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.

Around 200 underground baby factories have been shut over the last five years, according to Nigerian security agencies, however new facilities open to replace the closed ones.

Earlier this month, police officers stormed a hideout in Abia where they rescued 16 pregnant girls and eight young children.

Maureen Chinaka, a police spokeswoman revealed that the rescued girls were between the ages of 17 and 27 and had been told that they would be paid to leave the baby factories without their babies.

Last June, 22 pregnant young girls and two babies were rescued from a facility in the same state, where they had been held hostage.
Why do the factories exist?

There is a thriving market for babies among couples who are struggling to bear their own children. They are willing to pay between 1 million naira (€576) and 2 milion naira (€1,152) for a baby.

There is a higher demand for male babies, which tend to be sold at a higher price than baby girls.

Clare Ohunayo, a Nigerian activist and educationist, told DW that as long as there is demand for babies, the practice will prevail.
Supplying a demand

Ohunayo blames it on high levels of poverty and the stigma that comes with being a childless couple in Nigeria.

"The desperation that drives the baby factory has two sets of players. The first set is driven by the fear of poverty as a result of the socio-economic conditions of Nigeria," she said.

Those who own these facilities where the girls are kept, the men who impregnate them, and the girls themselves are all pushed into it by poverty, according to Ohunayo.

Some young female Nigerians told DW that they remain vulnerable because of their poor living conditions.

"This baby booming industry, even though it has been in existence, the reason it's coming up [is] because people are really really stressed in terms of striving for a daily living," a young resident of Abuja said.

Another Abuja resident told DW that: "We are experiencing an increase in crime rates due to hardship and poverty."

But not everyone blames it on poverty.

"Actually I think what is causing this menace has to do with moral decadence. Immoral people are desperate to make money. This is why you see this kind of thing happening, but to me I think it's very bad," said one Nigerian man.

Giving birth to children is considered signifcant in many African societies, and often couples unable to have their own children face humiliation, even from family members.

The demand for male children makes the practice especially lucrative, according to police officials.

"On the other side you have childless couple who want to avoid the stigma of [being] childless," said Ohunayo, describing a major cultural factor behind the baby factories.
Ending the baby factory business

Florence Marcus, a lawyer with the Abuja-based Disability Rights Advocate Center told DW there are laws to help tackle the menace.

"This issue of baby factories is a gross violation of the rights of the victims, especially these young ladies who are often taken to these facilities without theor consent," she said.

"The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act prohibits all forms of violence against person, particularly women and girls. The law provides maximum protection and effective remedies for the victims and also punishment for the offenders."

Several arrests have been made across the Nigerian states in which the practice is prevalent.

Zakaria Dauda, spokesman for the National Agency for the Prohibition in Trafficking in Persons, a government body, told DW that the organization will continue to make arrests and ensure that pepatrators are punished.

"We know [with] the issue of baby factory most victims are usually young girls. We warn people of the dangers of such vices," he said.

"And those who become suspects, we take them [in] for people to also know that there is a crime being perpetrated called sale of babies."

By Ben Shemang, DW

Related stories: Video - Baby trafficking syndicate arrested in Imo state

Baby factory raided in Lagos, Nigeria

16 pregnant women freed from baby factory in Nigeria

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