It was bad enough when police in Tucson, Arizona, picked up a 14-year-old girl for panhandling near the entrance to a strip joint in 1998. Things took a turn for the worse when the girl told cops that her parents had sold her twice to other families.
The girl was initially arrested for lying to police about her identity and on suspicion of health, welfare and morals violations, a charge often used to protect children who put themselves in danger.
It turned out there is nothing illegal in Arizona about selling a child to another family as long as it is not for the purpose of sex, slavery or servitude.
Released to her mother
Charges against the girl were dropped after five days and she was released into the custody of her mother in Fresno, California.
It is illegal to sell a child in California, but authorities were unable to determine that a crime was committed there. A police spokesman did confirm that the girl had been sold twice, the first time for about $11,000. She was returned to her parents for a partial refund after she had a miscarriage. She was later sold to another family for more than $5,000.
Newspapers in Tucson and Fresno spoke with a woman who called herself the girl’s grandmother. She was quoted as saying that selling a child is a Gypsy custom. “It’s not right,” she said. “No mother should give away a daughter for money.”
Teenage male arrested
Tucson police arrested a teenage male who was a companion of the girl. He was charged with child molestation, sex abuse of a minor and sexual conduct with a minor.
A United Nations report states that children around the world “need help and protection from an adult world that perpetrates” abuse against minors.
Such abuse takes the form of child labor and prostitution, serving in armed forces, and laboring as domestic and farm workers. The victims are often deprived of an education and denied adequate nutrition and health care.
It needs to stop.