24 January 2000
International adoption: respecting children’s rights
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mrs Renate Wohlwend, Liechtenstein, EPP/CD
I. Conclusions of the Committee
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights entirely supports the draft recommendation submitted by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee. However, in view of its recent work it finds it necessary to propose the following amendment:
In paragraph 5.ii, after the word «couples», add the following words «including homoparental families».
II. Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Wohlwend
1. The report presented by the Rapporteur of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee raises a very delicate issue, but I would like to say that it deals with it in a very proper manner.
2. There are millions of children without a family throughout the world, including in Europe, and there are many families without children. It should be very easy to make everybody happy. But, of course, things are not so simple.
3. The problem is not new. What is new is that with the progress of science, for instance, cases of strerility are less and less numerous and this is a very positive development. However, together with this improvement a so-called «right to a child» has developed in the minds of many people. Women, but also men and couples, tend to consider that there is a right to a child. Starting from this assumption they have a choice between two means of obtaining their «right». Either they turn to science and to doctors to ask them do everything possible to give them a child or they look for a child to adopt.
4. One can perfectly understand such a desire for a child; it is not necessary to elaborate upon it.
5. However this evolution has led to situations which are not acceptable from a moral point of view.
6. I am thinking on the one hand of «surrogate mothers» and on the other of children – usually from developing countries – who are offered, like goods against money.
7. Everyone has seen or read about orphanages where potential parents choose their child.
8. One is obliged to ask oneself whether, in some cases, women are not paid to produce children to be sold, this traffic in children being very lucrative, not only for the mother but especially for the lawyers who are acting as intermediaries between the authorities and the families.
9. This is very well illustrated in the report by Mr About who then comes to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption, adopted in 1993 and aimed at preventing the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children.
10. On the other hand, adoption may represent a chance for children who otherwise would not be educated and in some cases would even die.
11. The Hague Convention tries mainly to safeguard the rights of children and we can only support strongly this aim and the Recommendation.
12. However, as a member of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights which recently organised a hearing on the situation of gays and lesbians in the member States of the Council of Europe, I have to raise an issue which was lengthy discussed on that occasion, namely adoption by homoparental families, that is to say where the two parents are of the same gender. It was stressed that not to guarantee the same rights to homoparental families would amount to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.
13. I have also to recall that the Rapporteur for an opinion on the draft Protocol No 12 proposed to include «sexual orientation» in the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination and that the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights endorsed this proposal with 25 votes in favour and 2 votes against. Furthermore, in a judgement delivered on 21 December 1999, in the case of Salgueiro Da Silva Mouta v. Portugal, the Court held that sexual orientation is without any doubt covered by Article14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
14. The text of the Recommendation leaves it open when speaking about couples, but it seems to me that one should understand it as meaning including homoparental families. It would be better to specify this.
15. Accordingly I would like to propose to add in paragraph 5.ii, after the word «couples», the words «including homoparental families».
Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Reference to committee: Order No 543 (1998)
Opinion approved by the committee on 24 January 2000
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Plate, Ms Coin and Ms Kleinsorge
1 See Doc 8592.