As a judge, Brazil’s Zaloar Murat Martins de Souza is used to making tough calls. More and more, he finds himself having to make one of the toughest of all: whether to separate a child from their family.
De Souza works in Dourados in the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where large numbers of indigenous children are growing up in care, raising questions over who is best placed to look after vulnerable young people.
He said that poverty is fueling drug and alcohol abuse and violence among the tribal communities of Dourados, home to about 220,000 people, including 10,000 from Brazil’s indigenous minorities.
“The vast majority live in a state of misery and this deprives the family,” De Souza said in his office as he stared at a pile of lawsuits. “Alcohol and drugs are the two great evils of our indigenous villages.”
The number of indigenous children in care has doubled to 38 in the past four years, local social worker Ana Liege Charao Dias Borges said.
Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), the government agency that represents indigenous people’s interests, has raised concerns about children being wrongly removed from their parents.
In a report last year, FUNAI said it had received complaints of children being taken from their families “without notice, motivation or time for farewells.”
They are forced to adapt to a new and unknown way of life that can make reintegration into their community difficult, the report said.
They “forget customs, their mother tongue... Taking children from their tribes deprives them of a collective future,” it said.
More than half the children in shelters in Dourados were indigenous, up from one-third two years ago, Charao Dias Borges said.
Overall, indigenous groups make up about 5 percent of the local population.
Among them is Ana, a Kaiowa Indian girl who was taken into care after she was raped at her home two years ago when she was just nine. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
At a children’s home in Dourados, Ana said that her mother regularly got drunk and left the house, leaving her and her younger sister alone.
“He hurt me... He closed my mouth and I could not breathe,” she said of her ordeal, sitting on a bed surrounded by dolls in a dimly lit room.
Court documents list her father as the main suspect.
Ana now lives at the Santa Rita home, where children removed from their parents stay until a judge decides whether they can eventually be sent back to their families or should be referred to adoption authorities.
It includes a school and houses where the children live with full-time adult supervision, surrounded by toys. For many, life there is better than at home.
Under Brazilian law, children should only stay for a maximum of 18 months, but FUNAI said some remain for years — and the longer they stay, the harder it is for them to go home.
Santa Rita shelter director Monica Roberta Marin de Medeiros said that rising levels of violence and abuse are a major obstacle to sending them home.
According to national law, indigenous children can only be adopted by non-indigenous parents if all options have been exhausted within their own community, De Medeiros said.
Elida Oliveira, a Kaiowa Indian, said her son was taken away from her just a week after she gave birth in 2015.
“They [health workers] called the guardianship council saying that they had to take the child because I wasn’t able to raise him,” she said, referring to a panel of experts who work on child protection issues.
Oliveira, who has five other children, including a young baby who still lives with her, denied this, saying that she had always been able to feed her family.
“I want my son back. I’m alive, not dead,” the 39-year-old said outside her home in an informal indigenous settlement in Dourados.
De Souza, who ruled on the original case, said he would decide whether to send the child back to its mother or for adoption.
“We’ll have to see how their ties are because it’s been three years” since they were separated, he said.
Diogenes Cariaga, an anthropologist based in Dourados, said that taking young children into care should always be “a last resort.”
“Indigenous people cannot be all profiled as agents of violence,” he said.
Instead, authorities should focus on addressing the root causes of child abuse and neglect, such as poverty, addiction and unsanitary conditions, he said.
When Ana entered the shelter in 2016, the first thing she remembers is that “all girls were clean and I was dirty.”
However, she is eager to return home and said her mother regularly visits her and no longer gets drunk.
Others prefer their new life, among them 10-year-old Carolina — also not her real name — who has been living in the children’s home since 2016, when community leaders and health workers reported she was neglected by her mother.
“Here is better because there is a bed to sleep, food to eat and we sleep warm. I felt cold there [at home],” she said.
South China Sea exercises in July by two United States Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers reminds that Taiwan’s history since mid-1950, and as a free nation, is intertwined with that of the aircraft carrier. Eventually Taiwan will host aircraft carriers, either those built under its democratic government or those imposed on its territory by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). By September 1944, a lack of sufficient carrier airpower and land-based airpower persuaded US Army and Navy leaders to forgo an invasion to wrest Taiwan from Japanese control, thereby sparing Taiwanese considerable wartime destruction. But two
This year, India and Taiwan can look back on 25 years of so-called unofficial ties. This provides an occasion to ponder over how they can deepen collaboration and strengthen their relations. This reflection must be free from excitement and agitation caused by the ongoing China-US great power jostling as well as China’s aggressive actions against many of its neighbors, including India. It must be based on long-term trends in bilateral engagement. To begin with, India and Taiwan, thus far, have had relations constituted by various activities, but what needs to be thought about now is whether they can transform their ties
On Thursday last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a barnstorming speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, titled “Communist China and the Free World’s Future.” The speech set out in no uncertain terms the insoluble ideological divide between a totalitarian, communist China and the democratic, free-market values of the US. It was also a full-throated call to arms for all nations of the free world to rally behind the US and defeat China. Pompeo elaborated on a clear distinction between China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in an attempt to recalibrate the
As Taiwan is engulfed in worries about Chinese infiltration, news reports have revealed that power inverters made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co are used in the solar panels on the top of the Legislative Yuan’s Zhenjiang House (鎮江會館) on Zhenjiang Street in Taipei. However, what is even more worrying is that Taiwan’s new national electronic identification card (eID) has been subcontracted to the French security firm and eID maker Idemia, which has not only cooperated with the Chinese Public Security Bureau to manufacture eIDs in China, but also makes the new identification cards being issued in Hong Kong. There might be more