As Justice John Pacoe spoke yesterday afternoon, he held up an ordinary cardboard box an office worker might store files in.

 

“Boxes of similar sizes to this, made of polystyrene with a few holes punched through, were the boxes used to transport newly born babies between Asia and Singapore and Malaysia,” Pacoe said.

 

Several audience members gasped.

 

The Chief Federal Magistrate of the Court of Australia presented his paper, titled How Trafficking in Expectant Women Affects the Rights of the Child, at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.

 

His shocking introduction to his paper was a mere teaser compared to anecdotal and statistical evidence, Pacoe said at the fifth World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights.

In a steady voice, Pacoe told the true story of a young Bulgarian woman tempted by a stranger to sell her unborn baby. Like many mothers in similar situations worldwide, she agreed.

“Discrimination against women, and poverty, are two of the major reasons why some women see no option other than to abandon or sell their babies,” Pacoe said.

He hoped the conference would help him and other international speakers spread the word about worldwide child abuse and trafficking, adding international laws must switch from reactionary to preventative for things to change.

“A child should have the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents,” he said. “If this cannot be so, then the child must be protected.”

The week's conference also shed light on Canadian child trafficking yesterday.

Marlene Dalley, who also presented, handed out a summary of the 2008 study Hidden Abuse, Hidden Crime by the RCMP’s Missing Children Services.

“The sexual exploitation of children and youth is closely aligned with child trafficking and closely matches Canada’s trafficking and other child protection laws,” the report said. “It also shows the urgency and necessity of protecting children’s rights.”

The world congress wraps up Wednesday.