Published on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Orphanage scam volunteering fuels child trafficking

Kids commoditised, exploited and abused in top 5 Nepalese tourism destinations says report

Next Generation Nepal (NGN) has launched its long-awaited report showing that volunteering in orphanages in Nepal is in fact fueling child trafficking.

The report, "The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering: Combating Child Trafficking through Ethical Voluntourism," shows that orphanages in Nepal contain over 15,000 children, yet at least two out of three of these children are not orphans. NGN claims that many of these children are being kept in "orphanages" because they are being used as poverty commodities to raise money from well-intentioned but naive fee-paying foreign volunteers and donors. Indeed, almost 90 percent of "orphanages" in Nepal are located in the top five tourist districts for this reason.

The report reviews the history of orphanage trafficking which stems back to the Karnali region during the civil war when parents looked to traffickers to help their children escape forced conscription into the Maoist rebel army.

It argues that the ban by Western nations on inter-country adoptions in 2010 shifted the focus by criminal groups away from "selling" children for adoption toward "selling" opportunities to volunteers and donors to support orphanages.

The report also shows how most orphanages in Nepal do not meet the Government's legal standards, and that abuse and exploitation children in such places are commonplace.

Said Responsible Tourism campaigner Vicky Smith "It has long been known in responsible tourism that tourism involving orphanages (whether as a volunteer or visitor) does not have the positive benefits that many have originally believed or intended, in fact fuelling a demand for often deliberately-squalid orphanage creation to commoditise children for exploitation."

"Like  UNICEF's 'With the Best Intentions' study of attitudes to residential care in Cambodia before it, this report exposes the grotesque money-making market that is orphanage tourism, trading on the guilt of Western philanthropic concerns and personal ego desires rather than any realistic local needs, which all too frequently offer nothing in the way of background checks or child protection."

"Vulnerable children, possibly already neglected and abused in life, and often involved in fund raising for their own support through tourism performances and begging, experience emotional attachment, abandonment and trauma time and time again. Many have families, poverty-stricken, desperate and promised a better life and education for their child, who is then trafficked in this manner."

"The report is a welcome acknowledgement of the situation in Nepal so that, like Cambodia, it may now address policies for development of child care alternatives in the community and through extended families in preference to residential care, and thus stem the supply. "

"Travel  companies and tourists need to be aware that fake orphanages and trafficking are the consequences of their demand, and offered information on responsible alternative ways of supporting childcare and community development. "

The subject is certain to be discussed at Tourism Concern's upcoming Ethical Tourism Conference, details HERE

Valere Tjolle

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