In the midst of the economic crises besieging many Egyptians and eating up their incomes, many resort to different tricks to try to overcome these crises. The latest of these tricks, and the most strange, is the attempt of a mother and a father to give up their baby for money. They made announced this prior to his birth, justifying the decision by saying they are trying to provide a decent life for his sister.
Through the Facebook page Tefl lel Tabany (a child for adoption), the mother announced her desire to give up the fetus, saying, “If someone would like to adopt a child who will be born, God-willing, in two weeks at maximum, and the adoption will be through the mother and father of the newborn, communicate in private; for serious only.”
Her post was vague and carried many possibilities, which was met with discontent among many Facebook users. Was she referring to custody but said adoption? Was she expecting compensation? Did she have any conditions regarding who could take the child?
This motivated Al-Masry Al-Youm to engage and uncover the real story.
We began by obtaining the mother’s phone number and contacting her to inquire about the offer. To our surprise, she had received many other calls from people expressing their desire to have the child.
The mother apologized for not answering the calls the first time because of the large number of calls that she had received. After assuring her well-being, the discussion moved on to the latest results of her follow-up with the doctors about the condition and position of the fetus and pregnancy in general. “I had an analysis completed to check on the white blood cells, and thank God, all is good; there is no harm to the baby,” she said.
We asked her about the adoption offer she announced on Facebook. She said that she is the mother of a two-year-old girl and did not think of giving birth again, adding that this pregnancy was unplanned. She had not discovered that she was pregnant until the fifth month, so it was too late to have miscarriage. She decided to go through with the pregnancy and then find someone to take responsibility of him.
“Finding someone to raise him well and take good care of him is so much better than seeing him dying from hunger and not being able to get food for him, or doing something haram (forbidden in Islam) to get him food!” the mother said.
Very calmly, the mother continued to say, “My husband, thank God, works in plumbing or electricity as available, but what he earns is spent on our basic needs. Even if there is a little money left and we can get by, there is our little daughter.”
She explained that her family barely meets their own needs, so there is no option to wait for help from one of them.
“I was satisfied with my daughter because she was the first joy, and I’ve never thought of giving her up, but I honestly do not want this baby; however, I also want him be among an honest family that keeps him, and then I won’t be worried or afraid about him; on the contrary, I will be happy and pleased,” she said.
“I can’t see him hungry while I can’t buy him food. I have a daughter who is so young and will be jealous and upset when he is born. It’s not fair to oppress them both,” she continued.
She then began to talk about the value of the child to promote him, saying, “I swear to God there are so many people who want him, and they messaged me and my husband Mohamed on Facebook, but Mohamed says not just anybody; we do not want much money.”
At this point we understood that the adoption would be for a sum of money.
“There is an acquaintance broker in buildings, apartments and land who wants to pay us LE 50,000, but my husband Mohamed is not rest assured in him. I tried to convince him that the sum is good, but he told me to disregard the money and focus on the treatment of the child. I told him to decide,” the mother said.
The mother set the amount for the child at LE 20,000, describing it as a very simple amount, but she would accept it in return for handing the child over to people with whom she feels comfortable.
The difficult economic conditions experienced by the family started before the pregnancy. The mother said that she had been working in a cloths shop but quit it after the birth of her daughter. She added that she had contacted many people who offered to help her raise the child, but she refused because she needed the money, which she could deposit in a bank account for her daughter.
At this point, the mother asked us to talk to her husband to complete the rest of the negotiation stages. The husband said at the first moment of talking to him that he wanted to meet that day because his wife was about to give birth to the child. He added that we must meet before she enters the operation room in order to fill in the data regarding the father and mother, otherwise we would have to enter into the adoption and waiver procedures, requiring going to the police station, which would be a “hassle”.
We tried to evade the idea of the meeting, stressing that the requested sum is not currently available. He replied, “I do not know how things will evolve; there are no guarantees.” We asked him to wait a few days for the amount to be available.
A few days later, the father contacted us to find out where we were. He was on his way to the hospital with his wife, and he described how to get to the hospital. This was the first interview with the family in al-Shatby Hospital in Alexandria.
A skinny body with a pale face, the mother stood in front of the examination room, waiting to be checked by the doctor, who would decide whether she would give birth that day or not.
Throughout the waiting period, the mother sat touching her belly with her weak fingers from time to time, as if touching the fetus to say bye. She could enter to give birth at any moment and come out to find her husband had given up her son.
Meanwhile, the father sat on one of the sidewalks in the hospital. He is a young man in his early twenties, dressed neatly and lighting up one cigarette after another while his daughter plays next to him.
During the conversation with him, he stressed that he is not yet aware of the exact sex of the fetus because the hospital where his wife received checkups does not have a sonar device, although they feel it is a boy.
The father noticed that the phones we were carrying were recording. He commented, “If you want to record video, do it; it’s a guarantee for you and okay for me; not a difference in my life. He is my son and I am free with him. This is adoption. I can waive him at any police station.” He said that he would not return to search for his son, indicating that he would not ask about the address of those who would receive him, nor would he be interested in knowing their names in full.
As the mother waited for her name to be called, the father started to calculate the burden he would have incurred if the child remained with him, saying, “The minimum daily expense of a child is not less than LE 40 in the first year. Pampers and milk, check up, treatment and clothes.”
When we refused to give him any of the documents to register the child with our names directly, he said “Possibly after the birth I can cede him to you anywhere, no problem. I’ll take the money and deliver you the baby and the receipt. The concession will be final. Even if someone from our family asked about him, we’ll tell them he died.”
The father couldn’t make a deal on this day, as the doctors recommended the mother receive an injection and wait for two days for the medication to be effective. This angered the father, who asked us to wait until he attempted to make with the doctors complete the delivery on the same day, but he failed.
It was the first and last time we saw the father and the mother, as contact with them was interrupted afterwards. However, Al-Masry Al-Youm had verified the incident, having acquired a number of audio and video recordings of conversations that prove the details. We contacted the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) to follow up on the procedures it made after the announcement of the mother on Facebook.
NCCM Secretary General Dr. Azza al-Ashmawi said that the child is with his mother in the hospital, where they are under guard, while the father is detained until the end of investigations.
Detaining the mother and child was difficult because their health was precarious after childbirth and it was difficult to separate the child from his mother, especially since he was born a few days late.
Ashmawi pointed out that in order to ensure the safety of the child, a team was formed from the child rescue line to provide all means of support for the infant and ensure that his health is not endangered.
This was not the first incident in which a family has put a child up for sale; however, this is the first occurrence while the baby was still a fetus.
Child abuse, whether physical or psychological, is a crime punishable by the Child Law No. 12 of 1996, according to Ahmed Mahran, a law professor and director of the Cairo Center for Political and Legal Studies.
The recurrence of these incidents is due to the absence of independent national mechanisms that protect the rights of children, explained Hany Hilal, secretary general of the Egyptian Coalition for Child Rights. For example, the NCCM is attached to the Ministry of Health, while it should be attached to the cabinet, he added.
Hilal said that the incident of parents offering to sell their children is one of the biggest crimes against the child, as it is a form of human trafficking.
The act is punishable in accordance with the Egyptian Child Law, in Article 291, which was added to Penal Code 58 of 1937, stipulating, “It is prohibited to violate the right of a child to protection from trafficking or from sexual, commercial or economic exploitation, or from being used in research and scientific experiments; the child shall have the right to awareness and be empowered to address those risks.
“Without prejudice to any stronger penalty prescribed by another law, shall be penalized with forced labor for a period not less than five (5) years and a fine of not less than fifty thousand (50,000) pounds, and not exceeding two hundred thousand (200,000) pounds, anyone who buys or sells a child, or offers a child for sale, or anyone who delivers or accepts or transfers a child as a slave, or exploits the child sexually or commercially, or exploits the child in forced labor, or other illegal purposes, even if the crime is committed trans-nationally.”
The incident reveals the extent of deterioration in the awareness of many families that a child may be exploited and treated as a commodity that can be sold, negotiated or exploited in different ways, said lawyer Mahmud al-Badawi.
He added that societal and family violence against children is one of the most dangerous manifestations, including the idea of abducting and selling children, exploiting children in begging, or selling children as a grant to a family who can’t have a baby.
“What is caught or revealed by the security services confirms that the age group from one day to 10 years is the most important category and the largest target for this type of very serious crime,” Badawi said.
Economically, Professor of Economics at Ain Shams University Yomnel-Hamaky said that the society suffers from a great social, economic and intellectual imbalance and needs to rethink economic empowerment of the poor in Egypt through a comprehensive vision that reflects the role of civil society.
MP Solaf Darwish, a member of the Human Rights Committee in the House of Representatives, said that if the father or mother of the child is proved to be involved in attempted sale of their child, they will be subject to the law and custody will be withdrawn from them if necessary.