International adoption vs. women's rights

By Sara Beth Wolicki

September 9, 2013 / TheDetroitNews

Michigan has one of the highest international adoption rates within the United States, and in 2010 Michigan ranked fifth in the U.S. for the most international adoptions. While international adoption is usually seen as a selfless act, it is not without consequences. The current international adoption process exploits birth mothers, denying their basic human rights and, ultimately, perpetuates human trafficking. Michigan families need to support human rights by ceasing to adopt international children, promoting international policy change and seeking alternatives, such as domestic adoption.

The general misconception of international adoption is that abandoned-but-deserving children are placed into the system. Varying circumstances including infertility, same-sex relationships and the desire to help has caused many American families to pursue international adoption.

The current international adoption process denies the basic human rights of the birthmothers as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1948, the United Nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all people and nations around the globe. This declaration lists 30 different aspects of human rights and highlights the times of motherhood and childhood as a time when people should be entitled to special care and assistance. The international adoption process exploits the time of motherhood. One example occurs in Guatemala, where it is common for lawyers, or even husbands, to force women to give up their babies in exchange for commission.

Moreover, these countries’ governments support exploitive actions against the birthmother. In Brazil, it is a common cultural practice among lower-income families to allow children to live with extended relatives, friends, or neighbors. But because Brazilian legal authorities consider a child living without biological parents to be abandoned, the child can be forcibly removed from the home to await adoption. Additionally, Brazilian courts have held hearings to terminate parental rights of a child without even informing the parents.

Other examples of government exploitation of women’s rights during motherhood exist in South Korea. Traditionally, when a child is born, he/she is placed on the father’s family registry, which is equivalent to a birth certificate in the United States. If the mother is single at the time of the birth, the child is considered illegitimate and does not have a family registry. Presenting the family registry is required for the child to enter school and obtain a job; therefore, without a registry, the child is not granted the same rights as other children and falls through the cracks of society. Not allowing the child to be registered in the name of the birthmother is another example of government gender discrimination and ultimately denies the basic human rights of both mother and child.

How can we show our support for the rights of the birth mothers in foreign countries? Well, we can adopt children domestically. Yes, the process is more restrictive, but it also ensures the basic human rights of all parties involved. And yes, international adoption has the potential to help a deserving child in need, but the current system denies the human rights of the birthmothers. By continuing to adopt, we are only supporting these exploitations.

Sara Wolicki is studying Public Health Education and Promotion in graduate school online at University of South Florida.

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