Header image for news printout

“Illegal adoptions: States must tackle the pressure of demand, and ensure redress for victims”

GENEVA (7 March 2017) – A United Nations expert is recommending new measures to combat illegal adoptions, including proposals for tackling the systems in which such practices occur.

The move is being proposed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, in her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio criticised governments around the world for the pressure of demand in adoption processes and a lack of adequate State responses to the rights of victims of illegal adoptions. She also focused on the range of illegal acts and practices that result in illicit adoptions, and their impact on the rights of the child.

Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio underlined that “there is no right to adopt or to be adopted,” and stressed that “illegal adoptions constitute serious violations of the rights of the child, ranging from the arbitrary deprivation of identity to exploitation through sale.”

“A major factor behind illegal adoptions is the financial gain that can be obtained from the procurement of children for adoption, in particular for intercountry adoption,” she said. “As long as adoption fees lack transparency and donations to countries of origin are linked to making children available for adoption, substantial incentives for illegal adoptions will continue to exist.”

Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio’s report examines various forms and methods of illegal domestic and intercountry adoptions, and the underlying factors. It also focuses on the “enabling environment” in which illegal adoptions flourish, such as the prevailing conditions in countries of origin and the pressure exerted by receiving countries.

“Adoption, particularly in its intercountry form, is currently the only measure with a child protection objective that requires the disbursement of funds by those who are to provide that protection. As a result, adoption has metamorphosed from a child-centred practice to one that is subordinated to the desires and needs of prospective adoptive parents,” the Special Rapporteur said. “This has created fertile ground for the procurement and sale of children, along with other crimes that give rise to illegal adoptions.”

A number of measures were suggested by Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. They include making illegal adoptions a separate offence with sanctions that reflect the gravity of the crime; investigations and prosecutions targeted at the criminal networks involved in the trade; more investment in child protection systems; adequate regulation of adoption processes as well as putting effective oversight mechanisms in place to prevent, detect and report corruption. “It is vital,” she said, “that both the country of origin of the child and the receiving State recognise and address effectively the systemic problems involved.” In this regard, she advocated for the implementation of the “reversal of flow of files” – instead of setting quotas - as a means to respect the rights of the child by ensuring that applications are only initiated in relation to children identified as requiring adoption abroad.

The report also looks into the quest of victims of large scale illegal adoptions for truth about their origins, accountability, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition through legislative, policy and institutional reforms. “States must acknowledge their responsibility with regard to illegal adoptions by anticipating strategies and adopting comprehensive measures to redress victims. They must facilitate access to adoption records and tracing services, and support reunification of families that were separated by forced or illegal adoption. ”

“It is high time that all parties concerned put the best interests of the child at the centre of adoptions”, the Special Rapporteur warned.

Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio presents her report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, 7 March. She will also present a report on her official visit to Georgia.


Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (the Netherlands) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in May 2014. To learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For further information and media requests, please contact Nekane Lavín (+41 22 917 94 02 / nlavin@ohchr.org) or write to srsaleofchildren@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant1@ohchr.org)

Tag and share - Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights