February 2, 2010

Under international law and treaties, children should have rights to culture and ancestry

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010   No comments



Haitian children sit in the Canadian run Masion Enfants Espoir orphanage Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Haitian children sit in the Canadian run Masion Enfants Espoir orphanage Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz.
It is being reported in the news this week that Baptist missionaries from Idaho have been accused of attempted kidnapping. They were detained as they tried to transport 33 Haitian orphans to the Dominican Republic. The Haitian government contends that the children were not orphans. This is not the first time that children in countries with unstable governments or in war zones fall victims of illegal transfers.
In October 2007, Chadian police arrested nine French nationals as they prepared to fly more than 100 children to France. At the time, Chadian President, Idriss Deby, said, "it's inadmissible in the 21st century. The entire world needs to witness this. We are going to take all the necessary steps, administrative and judicial to shed light on the kidnapping of the children from Chad and Sudanese refugees."
The French aid group, Zoe's Arc, said it had arranged French host families for the children. The group's secretary-general said the group asked host families for $3400 each to pay for the operation's logistics. Most children interviewed said they are not orphans, and their parents are still alive.
Reports of child kidnapping in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia have increased in the last decade. But even in countries with stable governments, too, children are kidnapped and either sold as sex slaves or for organ harvesting.
The danger facing helpless children should make everyone more careful, and that includes those so-called well-intentioned individuals who think they are “just trying to help.” In fact, as a society, we should reevaluate the adoption process and make it more humane and not merely a solution for groups to please their gods or couples to make their families whole.
Undoubtedly, it is a heinous crime that only a deranged, savage individual could commit when they take away children for profit or pleasure. But I would argue that it is still immoral, unethical, and illegal to uproot children from their natural environment under the pretext of providing them with “a better life.”
We can learn more about the ethics and legality of child-uprooting from the well-publicized cases when “celebrities” adopt children from Africa.
Standing in a Malawi court next to the famous singer, the father of the child Madonna wanted to adopt, Yohane Banda, who can barely read or write, said, “I looked directly into her [Madonna’s] eyes and said, “Although I am giving you my son I want you to look after him well as he is the only one I possess. I want you to keep this boy, raise him, educate him - but you have to know he is my son and he is a Malawian.””
When interviewed by the media then, Banda, whose wife Marita, died a week after their son was born, admitted that he did not fully understand what was happening when he went to court to see for the first (and only time) the woman who was offering his 13-month-old son, David, a new life in the West. He claimed that he thought that Madonna will send his son back to him and his country when David is an adult. It must be noted that Madonna was able to adopt a child from a country where the law prohibits adoptions by non-residents.
Other famous and rich Westerners have always gone south or east to adopt children. Angelina Jolie reportedly indicated that she wants to adopt a child from each continent. Considering the wealth of some of these individuals, they can adopt the children of an entire tribe or an entire country if they wanted to do so. But for many, adoption is not about offering poor children from the jungle “a better life;” it is about self-fulfillment.
An African child should not be a ticket to redemption, social rehabilitation, or personal project. A child is a person, with rights to culture, ancestry, family, and identity. It may be the case that a poor child is better off in the West than in the jungle, but no one has the right to make that decision on his behalf.
A child is naturally someone’s son, someone’s nephew, someone’s niece, someone’s grandchild, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbor. A child, (to quote Mr. Banda) is Malawian, Nigerian, Sudanese, Brazilian, Asian, or Chadian. He has the right to a culture, to roots, to ancestors, to identity. A child from African has a right to be named (and keep the name) Adegoke, Buziba, Ngozi, Uzoma, or Zuberi; not renamed to become Edwin, Kevin, Jared, John, or Scott.
Those who are sincere about helping the poor and the needy should be able to help them while keeping them in their natural environment, among their biological relatives, among their friends, among their people.
It is feared that Westerners are seeking foreign children for adoptions not just because it is cheaper, but also because they want a child who will be totally cut off from her roots; a child who will be given a new name, a new identity, and a new reality. A child has rights to her ancestry, roots, and culture. Moreover, the idea that a Westerner is better able to offer an African or Asian child a better life, may be practically and materially true, but it is also is patently arrogant, stunningly dehumanizing, and selfishly opportunistic.
In the U.S., there are thousands of children waiting adoption and since, as it is popularly said, charity starts at home, Americans wanting to adopt should adopt from home. People generally justify favoring foreign children over Americans by arguing that it is legally complicated and financially expensive to adopt American children. It should be. Adopting a child, a human being, is not and should not be a simple matter. And no one should look to Africa and poor countries such as Haiti as the Wal-Mart of adoption either. In fact, the U.S. should pressure other countries to adopt the same standards to protect children and children’s rights.
International institutions, too, should establish laws and instruments that standardize the respect of rights and dignity of children around the world. Among these rights that ought to be protected is the preservation of the cultural and ethnical heritage of the adopted child, including her or his family name.

SOUAIAIA

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