Three MPs have warned about the “phenomenon” of trade and trafficking of children in Iran.
However, children’s rights activists, NGOs, and the U.S. State Department have been concerned about for more than a decade.
According to Iranian media, middle men frequent hospitals to bargain with mothers who are ready to sell their newborn babies.
“Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2016 annual report.
“The government of Iran does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the report said. “The government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts with the international community during the reporting period; this impedes the collection of information on the country’s human trafficking problem and the government’s efforts to curb it.”
Now, for the first time, MPs have called for intensifying the legal punishment for children trafficking and trade, the Iranian Parliament’s news website, Khane-ye Mellat, quotes the MPs as saying on May 20.
“Buying and selling children is against the law and shari’at, therefore it is banned,” said a member of the Iranian Parliament’s judicial and legal commission, Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar.
A bill based on supporting children and adolescents is under study in the commission, according to Pourmokhtar. The new bill would set a more stringent penalty, including imprisonment and heavy fines, for the buying or selling of children.
“Whoever participates in buying or selling children will face two to five years of imprisonment,” said Pourmokhtar, who is the deputy head of the judicial and legal commission.
The new bill, according to the third MP and member of the same commission, Yahya Kamalipour, presents a new approach and framework for tackling the issue of parents who offer their children on the market.
“Based on an article of the new bill, if parents or supportive institutions deliberately participate in selling or buying children, they will be punished and lose their authority as trustees,” Kamalipour said.
However, it is not clear what he means by using the word “deliberately.”
Earlier, another member of the same commission, Bahman Taherkhani, had warned that selling children in Iran has become a business.
According to local media reports, selling newborn babies in Iran has turned into a social norm, and there are families who sell their babies for the equivalent of thousands of dollars.
About a year ago, the Iranian deputy president for women’s issues, Shaheen Molaverdi, reported that selling babies even before they are born is on the rise.
“Poverty is one of the main reasons behind selling babies,” Molaverdi said. “Cultural and economic poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, and underage marriages are some other elements that can lead women to sell their babies while they are still carrying them.”
Many of the babies sold end up as targets of atrocities such as prostitution, beggars’ gangs, drug trafficking, and forced labor. Some of them are sent to foreign countries, including Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
“There was no apparent improvement in the transparency of the government’s reporting on its own anti-trafficking policies or activities and no apparent efforts to forge partnerships with international organizations or NGOs in addressing human trafficking problems. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol,” said the U.S. State Department report.