Ume Wainetti, is the Program Co-ordinator for the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee.
Speaker:Ume Wainetti, program co-ordinator, Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, Papua New Guinea
WAINETTI: We have a lot of unwanted children and that's because of young girls having babies either they get raped or it's from incest relationships or just getting involved with married men and young girls. And many times parents are not happy with what is happening, so many, many girls for these reasons have either given their children away to other people, or left children with relatives who don't want to look after them and so sell them.
GARRETT: You say you've had a grandmother ask you if she had the right to sell a child? What prompted that sort of request?
WAINETTI: We're doing a lot of work with the women informing them that it is illegal to sell children. If they want they should do proper adoptions, legal adoptions so the children are adopted properly so we know where the children are. That's the reason why the question was prompted, do I have the right to sell this one, I don't want to look after the child so why shouldn't I sell that child. And they're not selling the children for big money, these children are being sold for 50 kina, 400 kina.
GARRETT: So who would be buying the children and where do the children go to, what happens to them?
WAINETTI: Usually it's Papua New Guinea couples who can't have children buy them. People are willing to buy them but the thing is they buy them and we have no idea what is happening to these children.
GARRETT: How much of a concern is that?
WAINETTI: It is a big concern, a very big concern but we do not have data to show how bad the situation is. We know that many children are also killed by mothers because of the shame attached to having illegitimate children, and because we do not have a social protection policy that can enable a single mother to take care of her own child on her own. So because of things like that either the children are given away or sold or they take the child's life.
GARRETT: How much of this is associated with mining projects coming into a new area?
WAINETTI: Well Kiunga is well known for this, and there's no research to show, to confirm it's directly related to mines. But a lot of people who are there came because of the mine. And these are the people who are buying the children.
GARRETT: You say there's also a problem with child labour, what are you seeing exactly?
WAINETTI: To me it's not child labour if a child is helping the mother to do alluvial mining, that is not child labour. So child labour is not really seen in the mining areas like we're seeing in other big project areas like the oil palm and the timber projects, we're seeing child labour there.
GARRETT: So what sort of child labour are you talking about?
WAINETTI: You see children stopped from going to school to help, and these are children, your nieces and nephews you're stopping to help to bring the oil palm fruits down or you're getting them to clean around, do all these things. Most times the children are brought in with the guise that you help me to do this, I'll play your school fees and things don't happen like that.
GARRETT: Let's turn back now to the problem of children being sold, what would you like to see happen to help resolvel this problem of children being sold and no one knowing where they're going?
WAINETTI: The government is now working on legislation on human trafficking, so we're hoping this law will minimise what we're seeing. And there's a lot of educational materials now being prepared and so we're hoping that by doing this sort of awareness to parents and what we're also saying is making sure that men and women are educated on safe sex practices so that they do not bring children they can't afford to look after.
GARRETT: When new laws are passed, that's something that happens in Port Moresby, but the children are being sold at grassroots communities out in the rural areas. How will it actually change things on the spot, what needs to be done practically to make sure that legislation works?
WAINETTI: I think a lot of education, education also with law enforcers, and also actual facilities and we don't have services to take in children like this, we don't have like I said the social protection policies that would enable a mother to look after the child or support to foster homes where families are willing to take children in, we don't have things like that.