09/28/2005, 00.00
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Baby-selling by organised syndicates is big business in Malaysia

Foreign women are forced into prostitution and denied contraception to bread for organised crime syndicates who sell their babies at US$ 40,000 each. Women's rights activist says baby-selling can be stopped if the sex trade is ended. Police and authorities are often involved with the criminals.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Baby-selling is becoming a big business in Malaysia and falling into the hands of organised crime syndicates who exploit poor immigrant women, this according to Nawawi Ismail, Deputy Director for Criminal Investigations, who spoke yesterday at a UNICEF forum on children. For women's rights activists in Malaysia, the baby racket could not exist without the complicity of government and local authorities and is part of the wider sex trade business.

Deputy Director Nawawi explained that a "new modus operandi" has emerged. Women are forced into prostitution and denied contraception so that they can make babies—with the criminal gangs picking up the pregnancy-related medical costs—who are later sold at prices that can range from US$ 41,000 to US$ 50,000 each.

According to police, the gangs prefer Indonesian women whom they smuggle into the eastern Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak where they are hidden until they give birth.

The big demand for babies, especially among infertile couples, and the long and complicated channels for legal adoption have fuelled this lucrative but illegal business.

Ivy Josiah, executive secretary of Malaysia's Women's Aid Organization (WAO) spoke to AsiaNews about her concerns. "This is a new and alarming reality for us who have been working with exploited and abused Malaysian and foreign women."

"In Kuala Lumpur," she said, "the police rescued eight Indonesian women held prisoners in a flat, two of whom were in the last stage of their pregnancy. Denying contraception is something we have never seen or heard until now."

WAO, which runs a shelter for abused women, "is very worried," Josiah said. "Not only are women forced into prostitution but they are turned into some sort of breading machine to make babies for sale."

According to the activist, the root cause of the problem is the sex trade that has grown unchecked as local police, authorities and media turn a blind eye.

When prostitutes are found working in hotels or flats, landlords are never investigated. Newspapers print the women's photo, but they never show the faces of the men involved, be they clients or property owners.

"Why is it that when prostitution occurs for the third or fourth time in the same building, landlords are not sued? This is true discrimination that women suffer in Malaysia, and that is not all they suffer . . .".

Since 2002 the police has rescued 35 children and arrested 47 people, but many cases have not yet been investigated.

"From our experience," Josiah said, "the women involved in this racket tend to be foreigners who are abducted, exploited and then sent home. This way, the investigators cannot collect evidence and find witnesses to bring the guilty to justice."

For some years WAO and other groups have been fighting for a law against exploiting women. "It should provide protection to these women, guarantee them a shelter, but it should also clearly allow the authorities to put names to faces. Too often, when the young women are sent home to Indonesia, Thailand or Cambodia they fall into the hands of traffickers again. This is why we must make sure they go back to their respective families". (MA) 

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