National Assembly passes Adoption Amendment Bill

The National Assembly has passed the Adoption of Children (Amendment) Bill 2021, which includes greater protections for children on Tuesday evening.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, MP, who laid the Bill, said adoption is a legal and permanent procedure that transfers the rights and responsibilities of parenting to those who are willing to adopt.

The passage of this Bill would provide children with the necessary stability, nurture, and love they need to become productive citizens.

The amendment of this Bill will allow the establishment of common practice, and procedures that will harmonise the individualised regime, which governs our country’s inter-country adoption with other countries not a party to the Hague Convention,” Dr. Persaud said.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, MP

The Minister noted that the 1996 Hague Convention’s function aims to avoid legal and administrative conflicts whilst building a structure for effective international cooperation in child protection matters.

“In this respect, the Convention provides a remarkable opportunity for the building of bridges between legal systems having diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

“It also avoids having to redo the entire process outlined in Section 35 B 2 of the Convention.”

Minister Persaud said the Bill provides further safeguards which protect the child’s parents’ information and the provision of a thorough evaluation of the prospective adoptive parents.

This includes the accreditation of bodies, including any private adoption body or agency, which would be accountable to a supervising or accrediting authority. It also allows the Minister to establish a central authority or elect an entity to conduct these functions as outlined in Section 35C.

“We [all] know that even every well-intention legal process like adoption can be manipulated, abused or exploited by profiteers willing to sell children, unscrupulous persons willing to buy children and adults seeking to obtain children for baseless, or selfish reasons, such as sexual, labour and criminal exploitation.

“As such, the Convention aims at creating the right condition under which adoption may take place across borders,she said.

The National Assembly heard that between 2013 and 2020, 247 children were adopted by non-Guyanese and overseas-based Guyanese. Of this amount, 192 children were adopted by overseas-based Guyanese, and 55 were adopted by non-Guyanese.

Minister Persaud said in 2014 and 2018, the Ministry recorded the highest rate of international adoption, that is, 22 per cent, by non-Guyanese. And, in 2013 and 2018, it recorded the second highest rates of adoption by overseas-based Guyanese.

Meanwhile, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senior Counsel Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, and Minister of Public Service, Sonia Parag, MP, supported Minister Persaud’s assertions.

In response to a statement by Opposition Member of Parliament, Ms. Natasha Singh-Lewis, Minster Nandlall said while the Coalition administration believes that it initiated steps to safeguard Guyana’s children, it failed to complete the process like in many other instances.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC, MP

The well-being of our children remains a key concern for this Government, as children, due to their vulnerabilities, require our special attention. 

“This Bill symbolises the concrete action of this Government to protect, fulfil and respect the rights of children.”

He added that the Bill includes a penalty for people who breach any provision of the Act, that is, a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for six months. Currently, 100 countries have adopted this measure, including Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis.

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