Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nobody’s child (The Himalayan Times)

Nobody’s child (The Himalayan Times)

Prakriti Pathak

January 30, 2011

The international adoption trade is a booming multibillion-dollar industry, as families in the west increasingly adopt more babies from developing countries. Nepal, it seems does not want to miss out on this global opportunity.

In 2007, Nepal adoption alter it faced pressure and severe criticism from national and international media over allegations of corruption and children being sold. In addition, the report, Adopting the Rights of a Child prepared by the UNICEF and the Swiss-based child relief agency foundation Terre des hommes revealed instances of children and babies being put up for adoption without the parents’ consent. As a result, the United States and a number of European countries like the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Norway, Spain, Canada, Italy, Switzerland and Germany banned adoption from Nepal.

In 2008, Nepal promptly reopened inter-country adoption and in 2009, signed the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect to inter-country adoption. With an objective of ratifying the Hague Convention, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) formed a high level committee on May 14, 2010. Later in December 2010, new policies were introduced to facilitate the inter-country adoption process. “To discuss inter-country adoption, a team is heading to Italy in the first week of March, where all the European countries are expected to meet and most probably European countries will agree on adopting children from Nepal,” says Sher Jung Karki, under secretary at MoWCSW.

The optimism and speed to get things back on track is surprising. If only such promptness and dedication was displayed by our government in tackling much bigger issues that have almost brought Nepal to a standstill. What’s odd is the fact that while the government is going the whole hog to encourage international adoption, it has done precious little to even facilitate domestic adoption within Nepal and the vagueness of laws and provisions are often seen as a deterrent.

“The government is more focused on inter-country adoption, introducing new rules and regulations repeatedly and has completely neglected domestic adoption. Many factors are responsible for pushing the inter-country adoption but ’capital ’ is the main factor as lo reign countries have to pay hefty amount to adopt Nepali children and even with the new policies, there may still be space for irregularities,” says a source at the same ministry.

Interestingly, there is no data or any information on domestic adoption at the ministry. When a country neglects domestic adoption and focuses solely on inter-country adoption, it raises many questions. The answers themselves are not very hard to figure out. “We welcome recent improvements announced by the ministry but they are focused solely on inter-country adoption. Local solutions should be developed as a priority in line with international commitment”, says Joseph Aguettant, country representative of Terre des hommes in Nepal. He further added that local solutions include kinship, foster care and domestic adoption. Recently, Terre des hommes has been involved in promoting domestic adoption in mid-western regions in collaboration with Social Welfare Council, the local administration and NGOs. Besides creating a new mindset, the task involves deciphering the existing laws which are vague and need simplification.

“Nepal lacks adoption law and domestic adoption has not been fully practiced in Nepal yet. Though it is mentioned in Muluki Ain (Country Code), the process is vague and lengthy,” says Lochan Regmi of Central child Welfare Council. According to the Code, domestic adoption can be done by adoption can be done by relatives. But through various amendments, now any Nepali can adopt a child. “Though the horizon for domestic adoption has expanded, it is impractical and unscientific. There is no mention of the process for domestic adoption as the concerned body is busy regularly updating the policies of inter-country adoption,” says Rudra Kandangwa, advocate and chairman of Children Home Federation.

According to advocates and people involved in children’s homes to encourage domestic adoption, the government has to simplify the rules and laws. In the absence of proper and clear laws for domestic adoption, children’s homes are making their own. Aasha Shrestha, in charge of planning and sponsorship section of Bal Mandir says, Nepalis wanting to adopt a child legally from Bal Mandir have to fulfil a list of requirements.

Couples have to submit citizenship certificates, medical certificates to prove their infertility approved from Nepal Medical Board, marriage certificates, character certificates, details of economic status including land papers and bank balances, letters of consent from their family members, letter from authorized doctor proving the couple free from diseases like HIV; Hepatitis and mental illness. In addition to these, the age difference between the to-be adopted child and prospective parents should be not less than 35 and not more than 55 years. After completing all the required documents, they have to register the adoption case at the Land Revenue Office. According to her, Nepali children can gel genuine homes in Nepal rather than in other countries. But that is only possible if the government places the rights of orphans above all other issues.

To facilitate families and homes for orphans should be the priority. Whether in Nepal or abroad is secondary. Shrestha says the ministry’s priorities are misplaced; the concerned body should encourage domestic adoption rather than just aiming to maximize revenues from adopting parents from foreign countries. Till date, there is not a single child home in Nepal with the sole objective of promoting domestic adoption in Nepal.

The irony is that the ministry has all the data related to inter-country adoption but nothing on domestic adoption. Domestic adoption is supposed to be handled by the Land Revenue Office. However, many officers at the office itself were unaware about this fact. According to Beni Madhav Bhattarai, under secretary at the Ministry of Land Reform and Management, there is zero record maintained of domestic adoption and he argues that MoWCSW is the concerned body for both inter-country and domestic adoption.

When domestic adoption is not promoted serious questions arise. What kind of ‘New Nepal’ are we building in which our orphans have no place and no rights in their own country? For a country emerging from civil war and on the path to reconciliation, is our society not open to adoption and reaching out to orphans? Are Nepal’s orphans only worth the foreign exchange they bring in? What exactly is the government’s commitment and arrangements for orphans in this country?

Presently commitment is not visible. Orphans are housed in private children’s homes till they are exported to western families. These homes receive no financial assistance and hence little monitoring from the government. Over 198 of these children’s homes are far below the minimum standards. “The children’s homes that are not running in accordance with the government’s minimum standards should be shut down to ensure rights and the best interest of children,” says Gauri Pradhan, member of National Human Rights Commission of Nepal.

When contacted, even the minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, Sarwadev Prasad Ojha admitted that “domestic adoption is unsystematic and major steps have to be taken to promote it”. Then he hands us the age-old diplomatic line. ’’A team will be set up to make the new guidelines for domestic adoption."


PDF copy of original article:

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated to prevent spam