New law will fill legal void on foreign adoptions and help fight child trafficking.
THE National Assembly has begun approving a draft law tightening restrictions on the adoption of Cambodian children by foreign parents, responding to fears the previous lack of a regulatory framework allowed for the exploitation and trafficking of children.
“This law is an important part of the Royal Government’s enforcement policy on intercountry adoption and a means of serving children’s interests by finding them good families,” states a declaration appended to the draft law, presented in an Assembly session on Thursday.
Around half of the law’s 58 articles were approved by the parliament with little debate.
Cambodia is a signatory of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, an international agreement that sets forth principles for the adoption process, and the declaration states the new law will officially bring the Kingdom into line with the convention.
“This draft law will strengthen cooperation with countries that are parties of the Hague Convention … and prompt cooperation related to intercountry adoption in order to prevent the trafficking of children,” the declaration reads.
Up until now, Cambodia has lacked a proper framework for the adoption of orphans by foreign parents. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia have all banned adoptions from Cambodia since 2001, amid allegations of fraud and baby-selling.
If passed, however, the draft Adoption Law will ensure prospective parents undergo a rigorous screening before any adoption gets the green light. The law states the specific conditions for adoption, including measures to prevent fraud and coercion, delineate which children are eligible for adoption, and ensure adherence to the law through enforcement by Cambodian authorities.
Article 21 of the law states that adopting parents, whether they are foreigners or Cambodians, will be eligible provided they have “never been convicted of a crime and have good character and behaviour, are kind-hearted towards children and can feed” them.
According to Article 45, adopters also have to provide a report to the government every six months for three years after the adoption, and every year thereafter until the child is 18 years of age.
Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng said during the National Assembly session on Thursday that parents from 28 countries have so far adopted more than 3,500 Cambodian children, and that the draft law would also ensure local officials are up to the task of vetting prospective parents.
“The officials must have the skills to talk with parents clearly before deciding to grant children to the adopters because sometimes they take their children for business,” he said.