Nov 22, 2013 Comments Off
New Zealand legislation governing adoptions continues to reflect the values of the mid-twentieth century despite radical changes in global attitudes towards the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples, birth parents and adopted persons. The New Zealand Adoption Act, unchanged in it’s 58-year duration, now comes before the NZ Human Rights Review Tribunal thanks to a group called Adoption Action.
Adoption Action claims the Act violates 15 provisions in the Human Rights Act (1993) and The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (1990). The Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act both mandate that ”persons or bodies acting with legal authority”, including the Government, cannot discriminate and that everyone had the right to be free from discrimination. Under current legislation, same-sex couples cannot adopt a child but an individual can. People can be adopted up to the age of 20 without their consent, and they cannot obtain a copy of their birth certificate until they reach that age. There are also numerous reports of “forced adoptions” where birth mothers who weren’t fully informed of their rights felt pressured to give their baby up for adoption.
Legislators have largely ignored requests and recommendations to amend the Adoption Act, which was drafted in 1955. As recently as 2011, and preceding that 2003, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticized New Zealand’s adoption policy as discriminatory but no movement has been made on the part of The Ministry and Cabinet to reform them. This follows the New Zealand Law Commission’s report, submitted in 2000, which included 100 recommended changes to the Act, of which none have been made, and 40 recommendations for change submitted by the Ministry in 2007, of which none have been implemented.
On March 21, 2013 the Australian Prime Minister delivered a national apology for the effects of similar legislation on birth parents, adoptive or potential adoptive parents and adopted people: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/21/julia-gillard-apologises-forced-adoptions
It is hoped that if the Tribunal grants the application, New Zealand will follow Australia in working towards better adoption legislation for the future and mending past issues caused by the current legislation.