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The rights of children are supreme

Another non-debate lit up the news cycle in the last couple of weeks. Of all orphanages in the world, one in Ethiopia run by Maltese nuns, on the advice of the Archbishop Cremona, is giving babies for adoption only to married couples. Horror of horrors, cried some. Crass discrimination, shouted others. What about the rights of single people, some demanded. Being single myself I do tend to empathize with such rights. And what about the rights of gay couples others thundered. Being a human being I empathize with these as well.

The topic was raised by Alison Bezzina, a fellow blogger on this space. Newspaper followed it. Xarabank discussed adoption and in this context discussed the decision of this Ethiopian orphanage. Last Saturday the same topic was discussed during Andrew Azzopardi's programme on Radju Malta, Ghandi xi nghid. He phoned me for a comment.

My comment was as short as, I hope, was clear. Hang on a second, I said, before you decide to hang the sister who took the decision and Archbishop Cremona who suggested it. I do not think that one can speak of any fundamental human right to adopt. Married couples do not have such a right and less so do gay couples. On the other hand, children do have a right to be born and bred in the best family situations possible. Thus the rights of married couples, or single people or gay couples pale into insignificance when compared to the rights of children being given up for adoption. This is the heart of the matter.

The whole debate now vibrant in the media, particularly the social networks, unfortunately, had a cart before the horse mentality as it emphasises the rights of adults not children. The contrary should be the emphasis. Adoptions should only take place when they are in the best interest of children. Enough said.

I believe that – all things being equal – the first option for adopting should be given to married couples. Single persons should come second. I do not think that gay couples should normally be allowed to adopt children. I will only change my opinion if and when someone presents the results of reliable studies which show that the adoption in particular situations would be in the best interests of the children. If that were to be the case, I would have no problem with gay couples adopting children.

There is another aspect to this storm in a teacup. Is there any objective reason which should stop a privately run orphanage from making its own policy vis-à-vis the adoption of the children under its care? Are not those who run the orphanage those acting in loco parentis and thus have the duty and the right to decide what is best to those under their care? However, they cannot exercise their discretion in an arbitrary way. Even they have to be guided by what is in the best interest of the children in their care. Therefore they should not decide unless guided by experts in the field.

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