The Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, has said Uganda is turning into a ‘baby shopping centre’ where children are at a risk of being trafficked under the guise of being taken to foreign countries for adoption.
Gen Aronda told technocrats in his ministry to immediately work with Parliament’s Committee on Gender to harmonise and or pass the Children (Amendments) Bills 2015, which seeks to regulate guardianship and inter-country adoption.
While launching the National Action Plan for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) at the weekend, Gen Aronda said increased adoption of children from Uganda could be another glaring form of trafficking that needs urgent redress.
“We need to check and deal with this practice as soon as possible. Otherwise we [Uganda) have become a shopping centre for babies. We need an action plan which provides for enforceable sanctions once you have been found culpable trying to take a child out of Uganda,” he said.
The minister said the current processes of permitting adoption, especially through courts and securing passports, are prone to abuses due to the loopholes in the system.
Currently, the Children Act of 2003 requires interested parties to apply for adoption at either the chief magistrate’s court within the jurisdiction of which the applicant or the child resides or the High Court, but with the consent of the child’s parents or any other guardians.
However, Parliament is stuck with two versions of the amended Bill, with gridlock being cited on clauses that allow foreigners to take children out of the country.
The widespread levels of poverty across the country have compelled parents and guardians alike to sign away obligation for their children.
Gen Aronda, however, said it is unlikely that families that sign away their children to oversea visitors, sometimes out of ignorance, ever get chance to reunite with them.
The Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, last year also raised a red flag on the adoption boom, noting that the lack of government systems to track adoptions leaves children at risk of being kidnapped or trafficked.
“There is no assurance that their fundamental rights have been respected and thus abduction, sale or trafficking of children cannot be ruled out,” Mr Muwanga said.
The coordinator Preventions of Trafficking in persons, Mr Moses Binoga, said the new policy would also promote useful partnership among stakeholders on trafficking issues, and build institutional capacity on assisting victims.
Estimated percentage increase in adoptions from 2006 to 2013 in Uganda according to statistics from the Gender ministry in 2014.
Number of children adopted from Uganda to US, the highest on the continent between October 2012 and September 2013, according to the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Number of orphanages, some of which give away the children in Uganda according to the Auditor General’s report of 2013/2014. The report also said the adoption boom has led to a surge in the number of organisations.