From Bhutan Onserver (Jan 2012)
With the eighth session of the first Parliament endorsing the Child Adoption Bill of Bhutan 2011 yesterday, the country will now have a streamlined mechanism and procedures on child adoption.
Of the 68 members of Parliament present, 67 voted 'Yes' for the Bill. A lone MP said 'No'.
The Child Adoption Bill was deliberated in both the houses during the sixth session. The National Assembly presented 33 amendments for re-deliberation. The National Council refuted 26 of them.
During the joint session yesterday, the 26 amendments were deliberated thoroughly. Apart from making a few changes in the choice of words, MPs from both the houses agreed on the recommendations made by the joint committee.
One of the changes to the Bill is that it is now not necessary that the application for adoption may be made by a married couple.
The Chukha NC member, Tshewang Lhamo, said even a single person can adopt a child because he or she could have the potential of being a better parent.
An application for adoption of a child may be put up by a Bhutanese citizen who is of good moral character, financially secure, not convicted of a crime, capable of support and care for the child and is at least 30 years of age. The age difference between the adoptive parent and the child adopted must be at least 15 years.
The joint committee suggested that sections 29 and 30 be deleted. Section 29 states that a child may be adopted by the relative if there exists an established relationship between the child and the prospective adoptive relative, and the court is satisfied that the adoption order is in the best interest of the child.
Section 30 states that a step parent or a family member may adopt, if the person has an established relationship with the adoptee, and the court is satisfied that it is in the best interest of the child.
Health Minister Zangley Drukpa said that it has been in Bhutanese customs and tradition that the relative looks after a child when his or her parents die. "The relatives may be poor but they take good care of the child and if these sections are deleted it may affect such customs," he said.
Home Minister Minjur Dorji suggested that these sections be clubbed with the criteria required by an applicant to adopt a child.
Some members suggested that the preference of adopting a child should be given to the relative and the step parent.
Works and Human Settlement Minister Yeshy Zimba said section 29 should be kept as it is. "We have a lot of examples of children being adopted in the past. Some had property and some did not, but the child was looked after well," he said.
He added that going by this clause if the person who wants to adopt a child has to be financially secure, the relatives who really care for the child may not get to adopt the child.
Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay also supported the health minister. He said that when the parents of a child die, the child is under the care of relatives, and under the law, they are the child's guardians. And according to the law, a child cannot be adopted if the child has guardians.
Speaker Jigme Tshultim resolved that sections 29 and 30 be deleted.
The right of the child to inherit the adopted parent's property was also discussed at length. While some suggested that the child should have the right notwithstanding anything contained in the Inheritance Act, some said the Act must be followed.
Punakha MP Tshering Penjor said that the child should have right notwithstanding anything. If after a child is adopted, the adopted parents have their own children the adopted child could be discriminated, he said.
It was, however, decided that the child will inherit the adopted parent's property in accordance with the law.
The clause spelling out the adoption of Bhutanese children by foreign nationals also drew heated debates. Any foreign national may now adopt a Bhutanese child, unlike the original clause which insisted that only a foreign national of a country with whom Bhutan has diplomatic relations may adopt a Bhutanese child.
It was decided that section 63 will be kept as it is. It states the adopted child shall have a right to visit and stay in Bhutan or be granted citizenship in accordance with the relevant laws in force if the child has to return to the country of origin under unavoidable circumstances.
The house also agreed that if a person is found guilty of bribery in relation to adoption or proposed adoption of child the offence shall be a felony of the fourth degree.
When Lyonpo Yeshy Zimba said that parents who usually give children for adoption are poor and that some help in terms of cash could be extended to them by the people who adopt their children, Gasa MP Damcho Dorji said this could result in human trafficking.
The Speaker thanked the members for the in-depth deliberation of the Bill which was then endorsed as the Child Adoption Act of Bhutan 2012.
By Tandin Pem