Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Draft Agenda for the Special Commission on the Hague includes a viewing of Paper Orphans

A provisional draft agenda has been released for the Special Commission on the practical operation of the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The agenda includes a screening of the Terre des Hommes/UNICEF Nepal documentary Paper Orphans.

The Special Commission will meet June 17 - 25, 2010. The screening of Paper Orphans will take place on the 17th during the afternoon session. A full copy of the agenda can be downloaded at:

NOTE: This agenda is a provisional draft agenda. It is being sent to participants so they may see the proposed outline for the meeting. The draft agenda could be considered as a work in progress and it may be modified before the meeting to adjust the time of some sessions and to add some discussion points. The draft agenda will be treated with some flexibility and may need to be modified in the light of continuing discussions in the Special Commission.

A review of Paper Orphans is offered below for educational purposes:

Paper Orphans on the screen (Voice of Children)

Voice of Children Monthly -- May 2010

Rajesh Sharma

Translated from Nepali

Badoma Sarki cannot stop tears trickling down her eyes by hearing that her son had been taken abroad for good. At the time when she had seen her son off, she had thought that he would someday return home being an educated man, but this never happened. Nowadays she has been consoling herself just by looking at a photo of her son. Now her eldest son, Kishan Sarki, born in Humla, cannot speak in Nepali. His gestures and accent clearly sounds that he is a Spanish guy. He is now very perfect with all the household works as well as with the computer works. He often gives hands to his Spanish mother in the household works. He often walks around with his Spanish mother along the beaches.

These are some of the scenes of a very heart touching documentary "Paper Orphans" shown at Patan Durbar Museum on 19th of March. This film has tried to show how the children from Nepal, specially the rural parts of the country, are sent abroad in the name of adoption. The film at first shows all the facilities and comforts of life in which Kishan is living and slowly takes the audiences to the poverty stricken rural village of Humla where Badoma Sarki is weeping in pain for her long separated son. She had entrusted her child to Mr. Nar Bahadur Rokaya, chairman of Red Cross Humla, almost a decade ago in the hope to educate her son in Kathmandu. But she never saw her son again thereafter. Now her heart is shattered to hear that her son is not only in a foreign country, but he also has a new mother.

The audience present in the show from the various child rights groups and organizations were discussing among themselves that it was getting late to find the solution of such a problem. The environment of the show had become quite serene when the musical band "Kutumba" gave some entertaining performances. Present in the show were the national and foreign representatives of the organizations working in the field of child rights. The film had taken the audience to Europe through Humla and Kathmandu.

Rosa, a Spanish lady, had waited for 3 years to adopt Kishan before getting permission. During this period she visited many children's homes. She adopted Kishan from Balmandir, Kathmandu and took him to Spain. But she was surprised later to know that Kishan had his parents in Humla. Though she had heard about the cases of adoption made with the fake documents, she had a firm belief that Kishan was a real orphan. But she couldn't believe at first when she heard that Kishan had his real parents. With full of tears in the eyes, she says - "We were told that Kishan didn't have parents. Had I known at that time that he had parents, I would not adopt him. But after so many years, Kishan has now become an inseparable part of my life." On the other hand, there is Badoma Sarki, in the rural Himalayan district of Humla regretting her decision to let her son go to Kathmandu for education. She weeps bitterly and says - "If my son was living with me now, I would not be living under this poverty; I had sent him to Kathmandu because life was very difficult here then." This film with such heart appealing scenes has also played a significant role in mission journalism. The film has become successful in casting real pictures of the condition of ever disputed Inter-country Adoption programs in Nepal. The film directed by Marie-Ange Sylvain was prepared in partnership of Terre des hommes (Tdh), a Swiss INGO working for children, and Unicef.

Joseph Aguettant, delegate to Nepal for Tdh, says that the central message of the film was to seek alternative ways instead of sending children abroad in the name of adoption by making fake documents. He admits - "We are not against the intercountry adoption, but we want this to be done in a legal way. It's our objective that the orphans be adopted domestically, and they can also be reintegrated with their family."

The documentary was filmed by Image Ark Pvt. Ltd all the way from Spain and Humla to the children's homes of Kathmandu. The executive director of CCWB, Mr Dharmaraj Shrestha, proudly admits in the film that children are taken to Europe because they can have better life there with all the facilities and comforts in comparison to Nepal. This film has not included the views of any person from Balmandir. Balmandir has been sending many children abroad, like Kishan, for last many years. This film could have been better if it had taken the views of Balmandir also. In the film, Joseph and his team are shown visiting the Helpless Children Home at Ranibari, Kathmandu to interrogate about a child whom the children's home had tried to send abroad. The owner of that children home, Mrs. Sabitri Basnet, is shown in the film showing door to Joseph's team saying that they couldn't interfere with her. Her children home was punished earlier by the government for trying to send a girl abroad by pretending she was an orphan and creating fake documents. The lady as seen in the film is defending her act and behaving with the film crew in a rough manner.

Statistics have shown that around 1500 children are lost from Humla. The local politicians have been found involved in bringing these children to Kathmandu. Numbers of such children have been sent abroad by adoption, and the remaining children are still lost. Local people of a remote village Thehe, which is at 6 hours of walking distance from Simikot, the district headquarters of Humla, say that they had given Rs 10,000 each to Mr Chakra Sahi, an MP of the region, to educate their children in the city. A young man admits before camera - "We now come to know that Balmandir is just a trade organization which selects the children in a similar way that is done in a goat market."

In an interview in the film, Joseph says - "The real cause of this problem is not the poverty. Parents want to send their children to cities to get better education. Lack of awareness in the people is the main cause, and we believe that this film can convey this message. Tdh will always be active in this direction."

The film is centrally focused over the complex issues of adoption in Nepal and has quite successfully presented the whole story. This film could have been more relevant if it had included the opinions and the fake documents prepared, then, by Balmandir to prove Kishan an orphan.

English translation by Purushottam Lamsal for Voice of Children.

(Voice of Children is a leading child rights magazine in Nepal.)

A previous review of Paper Orphans was reported in the Kantipur Daily and published on PEAR's Nepal blog in March 2010:

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

1 comment:

  1. The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MWCSW) has accused the Hague Secretariat of working against Nepali orphans.

    The Ministry has asked the Hague Secretariat to work as per its official stance and respect Nepal's rules and regulations and to not work for the interest of any particular person. The MWCSW is preparing to send a warning letter to the Hague, accusing it of preparing a series of false reports about Nepal's orphans, an MWCSW official said.

    According to the official, the MWCSW will include in its letter its official stance along with an attachment of the copies of unfavorable reports prepared by the Hague Secretariat on Nepal.

    In the meantime, the MWCSW also issued a notice, Monday, expressing strong concerns about the Special Commission's meeting in the Netherlands on June 10 to 25 and to draw the Government of Nepal (GoN)'s attention on it.

    The Hague Secretariat didn't include Nepal in its conference that was held in the Netherlands this week. Under-secretary of the law section at the MWCSW, Sher Jung Karki, told Rajdhani, "Even though the Hague sent us an invitation, since it didn't send us a confirmation letter, Nepal could not attend [the conference]."

    According to him, the Ministry was ignored by addressing the letter to a specific person. "The Hague didn't send us a confirmation letter as the Ministry did not recommend the same person as recommended by the Hague -- Mr. Ratnakaji Bajracharya," Karki said.

    "As per regulations, the Hague should have addressed the letter to the Ministry, but by ignoring regulations and addressing the letter to a specific person has aroused suspicions," Karki said.

    Every year the Hague Secretariat reviews countries on whether or not they are implementing the Convention or not. This is done in the presence of representatives from respective countries. However, the absence of Nepal's participation has put the conference's legitimacy in doubt, according to an official at the MWCSW.

    "Other countries have also expressed strong concerns about Nepal's absence. The Hague must send us an immediate answer," the official said.

    Instead of providing "technical" support to the GoN for the implementation of the 1993 Convention on Inter-country Adoption, the Hague is working against it, the MWCSW claims. The MWCSW also said that the Secretariat worked against Nepal by discussing about the country despite its absence in the conference, and by allowing an organization to screen their documentary that was produced without the government's permission as well as by allowing them to present their working paper.

    In a notice issued by the MWCSW, the documentary on orphans and the working paper were presented without the Nepal Government's permission. The working paper was prepared by Joseph Aguettant of the Foundation [Terre des Hommes].

    The MWCSW criticized the working paper of including issues from 15 years back that does not depict the current situation, and of being one-sided.

    You should first get permission from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) before making any kind of documentary related to Nepal. However, the documentary that was screened was the one made by Terre des Hommes, an INGO, which showed the condition of children in 2052 B.S. (1995 A.D.). Claiming that the documentary is illegal, the MWCSW has sent a letter to the MIC requesting an investigation on it.

    Earlier, the Hague Secretariat had sent letters to different embassies in Nepal informing them that it had received several complaints about children adopted from Nepal and had asked them to stop the inter-country adoption process. After the government expressed strong concerns regarding this, it had apologized.


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