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4 Arrested in Indonesia for Selling Babies on Instagram

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Human trafficking threatens the safety of communities living in poverty, especially young girls and women who end up entering the sex trade. Indonesian women claimed to sell their unborn children online because they were struggling financially. You can join us in taking action on this issue here

Indonesian police busted a child trafficking operation that was allegedly buying and selling babies across the photo sharing app Instagram, CNN reports. 

A 22-year-old mother allegedly offered her 11-month-old for 15 million rupiah, which is around $987. 

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On Sunday police announced four people involved in the transaction were arrested in Indonesia’s second largest city Surabaya, including the mother, and a 29-year-old man who’s thought to have run the account, according to The Guardian

The mother allegedly tried selling her baby to a buyer in Bali. A midwife and the potential buyer were also taken into police custody in Bali, Frans Barung Mangera, a Ethe ast Java police officer reported

All four suspects could spend 15 years in jail for violating child protection laws. 

"If the use of Instagram is proven in this case then it shows how traffickers constantly adapt to new methods for their trade," Amanda Bissex, chief of Child Protection at The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), told CNN

The Instagram account used the handle "Konsultasi Hati Privat," which translates to Private Heart Consultation, had 700 followers as of Friday before it was taken down, and marketed itself as a “family welfare” service offering pregnancy consultation and adoption resources for young, unmarried pregnant women in the predominantly Muslim country. 

Women who allegedly wanted to sell their unborn babies for financial reasons told their stories on the account. The page full of photos of ultrasounds, masked pregnant women and unidentified babies had been active for roughly a year.

Read More: One-Third of Trafficked Humans Are Kids, UN Says

A photo of a baby labeled ‘C86’ was posted on the account on September 15 with details about its age, gender and religion. The post also included contact information for anyone who wanted to inquire about adopting that child or put up their own. 

Mangera told the Guardian he thinks at least three babies were sold on the account. 

Police discovered monetary exchanges were being made through the account, and deals were discussed over the messaging service WhatsApp. 

Screenshots of conversations between the Instagram account holder and pregnant women were also posted to the page. In one exchange, a woman who was seven months pregnant wrote that she was unmarried, needed to find someone to adopt her baby and seeked asylum until she gave birth so her family wouldn’t find out she was pregnant. 

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Susatano, the head of Indonesia's National Commission for Child Protection, told CNN that social media allows traffickers to eliminate middlemen and slip through the cracks of law enforcement. 

Instagram assured the Guardian the company tries to stop criminal activity on their app as soon as they become aware of it. 

Human trafficking is also rampant in Indonesia offline. UNICEF estimates 100,000 children are trafficked each year in the country and most are forced into the sex trade. The US government rated Indonesia as Tier 2 in its 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, claiming the country didn’t meet minimum standards for eliminating trafficking. Indonesia says it’s making “significant efforts” to change that.