In Pakistan, the adoption of abandoned babies has been made into a game show.
Game shows bore me and I’ve never desired to participate in one but I could tell you one thing: If I ever won on a game show, I hope the prize wouldn’t be a baby.
Last month the media circulated a story about a Pakistani game show, similar to a “Price Is Right,” where the winner receives—among other things—an abandoned newborn baby. The host, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, of the show “Gift From God” defends the baby prizes as “abandoned children that are condemned to grow up in the street, only to be enlisted by terrorists and to end their days as suicide bombers. We offer them an alternative. What is wrong with that?”
In another article, Hussain insists altruism motivates the show. “It’s not a prize, it’s not a game show, it’s real charity. Giving away is the wrong word. We actually hand over children to needy parents.”
While it seems as if these babies gained a new lease on life, how thorough were the parents’ interviews to ensure the babies were entering a loving and stable home? How were these so-called “needy parents” screened to prevent babies from entering a life of abuse, child labor, or worse, human trafficking?
Riaz-Ud-Din and Tanzeem Riaz won their adopted daughter on Hussain’s popular show and claimed it changed their lives. Riaz-Ud-Din was emphatic in wanting to “help break the taboo about adoption. I wanted to give a message to other brothers and sisters who divorce each other or fight because they can’t have a baby that they can stay together and do it this way.”
The couple underwent a battery of interviews upon knowing their induction to parenthood would air on live television. Which leads me to the question: How authentic is the game show if winners already knew of their prize ahead of time?
One supporter of “Gift From God,” Ramzan Chhipa, manager of Chhipa Welfare Association, was emphatic about his reasons for attending the show as it provided awareness and information of abandoned babies to the public. His organization provides the would-be parents a “strict check and balance system” and has also set up cribs in more than 60 emergency centers encouraging parents to anonymously deposit unwanted babies without repercussion.
Chhipa is more concerned with the public’s awareness of saving an abandoned baby from the trash than the purported unethical use of them as prize giveaways on a game show.
The practice of abandoning babies is nothing new and is not isolated to third world countries. The U.S. has implemented a “safe haven” law in every state. This should decrease the incidences of babies abandoned in life-threatening locations, but it has not. However, concrete statistics are lacking in documenting the number of abandoned babies in America.
Organizations in local communities are doing what they can to address this prevalent issue of baby abandonment. In Orange County, Project Cuddle, provides a program that focuses on helping a “girl or woman make a safe, legal decision” by helping them deal with the difficult task of telling their parents, finding shelter, and choosing adoption. Each girl who calls for help is treated with respect, which influences her to make the right decision.
A few days ago, a new Baby Safe Surrender outreach campaign was launched in my community by L.A. County Supervisor, Don Knabe.
Safe Surrender has existed since 2001, protecting abandoned newborns from abuse or death by allowing a parent or legal guardian to relinquish the infant to a hospital, emergency room, or designated Safe Surrender site, while under the cloak of anonymity.
The new campaign will enlarge its demographic in Los Angeles County and has recently been introduced in different languages with the hopes of raising awareness.
There is no doubt that people in America and across the globe truly care about abandoned babies. But there’s a tenuous line between good will and a baby’s life. A favorable outcome for the latter should always be top priority.