Can a baby be sold or bought? The simple and straight answer is 'no'. But financial and circumstantial compulsion at times proves overpowering for parent/s to part with newborns no matter if this is illegal. There are childless parents willing to adopt such a baby and they are ready to pay a price for the baby they intend to raise as their own. Even abandoned babies in unlikely places like garbage bins, bushes or on roadsides ---news of this not being infrequent ---are in great demand, provided that they are rescued in time and given enough medical attention for their survival.
Now when do mothers dispose of their babies? In this heartless world, it is said that the mother-child bond is emotionally most intense. The birth of baby generally ought to be the most joyous and welcoming occasion. But not always! Extremely poor parents who cannot feed their children, are unlikely to rejoice over the arrival of an additional mouth. Yet not all such couples are disposed towards getting rid of their babies. Only in rare cases are parent/s compelled to make the hard decision.
The latter type of abandonment is the result of a blatant choice made in order to avoid a scandal. In traditional societies, the idea of a girl giving birth to a baby before marriage is sacrilege. So in circumstances where unwanted pregnancy happens and the biological father refuses to take responsibility of the baby, an abortion is the best option for an unwed mother. If an abortion proves costly or somehow cannot be carried out in time, the newborn often finds itself abandoned secretly in unlikely places.
What is scandal in poor and traditional societies, however, may be a discreet choice for a single mother in advanced societies. The number of single mother ---or even father --- is on the rise in those societies. They often opt for surrogacy to become biological mothers and fathers. This they can do because of the permissibility of individual choice in case of emotional attachment and, of course, they have the financial ability and independence not only to hire a donor or a womb but also to raise the young ones singlehandedly. Even in high societies of countries in this region surrogacy has become an accepted norm of becoming a parent.
Even then at times, controversy cannot be avoided if a surrogate mother refuses to forfeit her claim to the baby. Yes, motherly instinct can prove stronger than money at times. Legal intervention is necessary to settle such matters. There is no question of a scandal. It becomes an issue of financial transaction to which both parties agreed.
However, what happens in case of a financial arrangement between a parent/s and a childless couple willing to adopt a child is a completely different matter. A poor mother in extreme penury is in no situation to raise the baby and decides to forego her claim to it in exchange for some money which can be of help to her family. She could not care less if it was illegal. Even the adopting couple does not have to spend a hefty amount to get the baby.
The latest such case, as reported in a leading Bangla contemporary, once again exposes the helplessness and desperation of a mother who gave birth to baby boy in a private hospital located at a bazaar in Matlab, Chandpur. After the baby's birth, she was about to be discharged when she was asked to pay a hospital bill of Tk27,000. The poor woman had no means to manage such an amount but the hospital authority would not let her go without paying the bill. So she contacted someone she knew who arranged money for her on condition that she would surrender her baby to a couple who had three daughters but no son for adoption. When the news came to the notice of the upazila health and family planning officer there, she has formed an investigation committee assigning it the responsibility of submitting a report within three working days.
In similar cases earlier, happy reunion of mother and baby was mostly the result. In this case too, let there be such a reunion. But one thing must not escape notice: there are many vulnerable and desperate mothers or parents like her. The country has a long way to go before they overcome their vulnerability and desperation. Involved here are parenting choice and overcoming poverty. In a country about to attain the full status of a developing one, such incidents are a disgrace. Widening economic disparities have to be taken care of as a first step towards eliminating such heartbreaking mother-baby separation.