Seychelles: Same sex couples seek right to adopt children

Seychelles: Same sex couples seek right to adopt children

Date: June 4, 2019
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By Julliete Dine

Mahe, 11 May:  As a country who has signed multiple human rights conventions, Seychelles still holds reservations on the right of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Iintersex (LGBTI) community.

 Same sex couples from this community seeks to adopt children but the current adoption law enacted in 1982 does not make provision for it.  The chairperson of the LGBTI association, Fabianna Bonne, believes that there must be changes, but the real victims refrain from speaking up, fearing victimisation and discrimination from the society. LGBTI are a minority in Seychelles, an archipelago with a population of more than ninety five thousand. Fabianna says LGBTI community is estimated to be between five to fifteen percent of the general population but she does not have an accurate figure for Seychelles.

Although science makes provision for people to have a child through artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, some couples prefer to adopt, that is also the case for same sex couples.

Fabianna says that couples in the LGBTI community have been told that they cannot adopt children as a couple but can do it as a single parent as long as they are not in a relationship with someone else.

“For those who are single, as long as they remain silent about their sexual orientation; there are some that have succeeded, but for those who have come forward and let people know that they are either lesbian or gay, this has created problem for them. That is in the end their case remains pending and they never get a final answer”

Are you aware of any case where same sex couples have been told that they cannot adopt but can foster a child?

“I actually know one specific case, whereby two people got married abroad but were told here that they will not be able to adopt but will be able to foster”. The association finds it strange that the applicants were told that they can foster but not adopt. Fabianna wonders what is preventing them from adopting. She added that the association has been trying to obtain an answer from the Ministry of  Family Affairs but they are not forthcoming with a clear and well explained answer.

Fabianna says that the couple is uncomfortable with the idea of fostering a child, they fear that the biological parent might take back the child in the future, so they are having second thoughts about fostering.

“The way the situation is, it’s definitely discrimination, because they are saying that the couple is good enough to foster a child but for them to adopt and take full responsibility that will not be possible”.

“From what I know, there are three to four couples and some single people who are trying for this procedure”

Some people believe that if a child grows up with same sex parents they might end up being gay or lesbian themselves. What is your opinion on this?

“Well this logic doesn’t stand, thinking about it, almost all the adults that are gay or lesbian today, they grew up in a heterosexual family, this didn’t stop them to become gay or lesbian. According to international research children that grew up with same sex parents do just as well in the society as other kids. Actually research shows that they do even better, because they are more empathetic, they get along better with other people, and perform well at school. There is no research that shows that this has negative impact on a child”.

“You cannot change the sexual orientation of someone, if a man will like another man he will do it no matter what and it’s the same for a woman. Research shows that children start to develop their sexual orientation at the age of eight and no one can influence them. The child will grow up to be the person that he/she is”.

Do you believe that same sex couples should be given the same rights as heterosexual couples?

“Well, we are all human, so if one person has a right, then the right should be extended to everyone, never mind their skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, this is not supposed to be an issue”

Changes that we should do in our society: “We need to understand that our country is changing and when we are bringing in change we must ensure that it benefits everyone, because at the end of the day we are all Seychellois and we will all be happy if we could flourish in our own country. Therefore it doesn’t make sense for us to create a situation where a specific group is restricted from finding happiness”.

 “Many same sex couples who have left Seychelles have brought forward this concern, they got married in the country where they are residing, they have a family and share their belongings with their partner, they ask me why will they come back to Seychelles if they will be in a situation where their marriage is not recognised, it will be a problem for them to have rights on their kids, they will not be able to share their belongings with their partner because of the way our law is. This creates some restrictions and it is difficult to convince these people to stay in Seychelles. Many gays and lesbians have left Seychelles because they say that they cannot live a fulfilling life here”

How many same sex couples in Seychelles has left the country?

“I don’t have a figure, it might be around 20 people that I know personally that have left the country, but there could be more. There are some Seychellois with Seychellois and some Seychellois with foreigners, but the majority are Seychellois who are trying to adopt and foster kids in Seychelles”

How do you see people’s perception towards the LGBTI community?

“Things are changing slowly, but visually on social media it’s evident that there are ignorance. We are using our social media page to try and change people’s perception. Recently we have interacted with the media by talking about this topic on K Radio and Pure Fm”.

Attorney General Frank Ally says that the Children’s Act allows an individual to adopt a child – it can be either a women or man who is not married. The court will decide if it will let the individual adopt the child based on the child’s situation and the personal situation of the individual who would like to adopt the child.

“The Sexual orientation of an individual is not a barrier for the individual to adopt a child. The law allows a couple to adopt a child but they need to be married. In the case where a person was married previously but at present has been separated from the spouse, then the individual will be allowed to adopt. But the current law in Seychelles does not even allow a couple who isn’t married yet to adopt, it only allow married couples.

“For the moment our law does not recognise same sex marriages, so same sex couples, or concubine cannot adopt children under our law, so it will be necessary to amend this law to make provision for concubines to get the opportunity to adopt kids. To able to do this the family affairs department which administers the Children’s Act need to take a decision on policy, to say if it will amend and modernise this law”.

According to Mrs Marie-Agnes Ally the principal social worker from the social services division, the social services register applicants who express the willingness to foster children. The applicants are assessed on their capacity as potential parents if they are childless and as parents (for those who already have children)

      She added that social services considers all other factors that are primordial to “the best interest of the child” and not the best interest or want of the foster parent. “Bearing in mind that the issue of LGBTI is sensitive and our society is coming to terms with the moral implication of the right of a person to his/her sexual orientation. As much as the government or system will not interfere with their sexual orientation, Social Services having the mandate to ensure the well-being and protection of children has an obligation to ensure protection of children.   Hence, we need to be mindful of arising/interrelated issues such as how a child residing with same sex couple, will be accepted/related to, for instance in a school environment and wider community”.

      Does your department intend to amend the law in the future to accommodate this group of people?

“The ministry is considering certain amendments of the Children Act but adoption by same sex couple is not a priority and as indicated earlier, the society needs to be prepared to affront this drastic change. It goes beyond only the Children Act but other legislations concerning family issues such as the Civil Code and even the Constitution”.

On the other hand the National council for children’s chief executive officer, Jean-Claude Matombe, stresses on the best interest of the child, especially in the current environment in Seychelles, pertaining to values and reaction from the society.

Mr Matombe, says that it will not be easy for the people of  Seychelles to accept the idea, of same sex couples adopting children.  “We all know that it’s coming because Seychelles has signed the human rights convention. Our constitution give the same chance and opportunity to all, we speak of equality for everyone, meaning that these people need to be treated as equal. Looking at human rights in general, its principles speak of what I remember it as FRED, that is, F is for fairness – there must be justice and fairness for all; R is for respect – you need to respect everyone despite their opinion, their sex, sexual orientation, skin colour, everything; E is for equality – everyone is born equal and there shouldn’t be any discrimination against anybody; D is for dignity – we need to give everyone their dignity, value them, don’t make them feel inferior, everyone is equal. Meaning same sex couples are supposed to have the same opportunity to adopt children.

 “But in practice it’s totally different! I just thought of an example, a couple of years ago there was a same sex wedding in Seychelles, but it was held at the British high commission’s  residence,  and there was an uproar, people were against it, up in arms, the churches and everyone around disagreed with that. This shows that there is a lot of work to be done to educate the population to advocate for these people to be able to enjoy the same rights, but it’s up to the LGBTI community because they are seen as a vulnerable group and they can be protected under certain conventions for that. They need to be active to show that they have the same rights for them to be able to exercise their right to adopt children”.

“We at the National Council for Children (NCC) will stress on children’s rights convention, it is a human right convention. Article 2 speaks of non-discrimination against any child, this applies also for LGBTI. Article 3  will present a challenge for LGBTI to adopt, because it cites that any decision taken either at home or in any government institution or legal institution, the best interest of the child comes first”.

 “Assessing the situation, will it be in the children’s best interest this year, to allow same sex couple to adopt a child? I will say for the moment it will not be possible, because of the environment. For example at schools there is bullying, it’s possible that the child will be exposed to bullying just because they have two mothers or two fathers. So this is a challenge. It’s not only for same sex couples that we have to think of the child’s interest, it also applies for a normal couple (what society perceive as a man and a woman)”.

Mr Matombe states that in the case where an applicant is well off financially, the adoption institution will look at other factors such as the individual’s behaviour, ability to support and love the child. “For example if the applicant is not responsible, he/she is absent from home all the time and allows someone else to care for the child, then the institution will rather give the child to a family who is less fortunate,  always present, have certain skills and competencies and can give love to the child.

“Article 20 speaks of fostering, yes a couple can foster a child for a while, but it can be a problem, because the law in Seychelles does not allow same sex marriage  at the moment, for it to happen the law must change, I’m not foreseeing it, this year, nor in 2020, especially because there is an election coming up. I believe this generation of politicians we have now, are a bit more conservative, and they are counting on voters. Many voters are very religious and politicians will not dare to address this issue now. But I believe as from 2021 upwards, the conversation about this subject might start, it’s inevitable because there will be pressure not just locally but from abroad as well. Because at the moment Europe, our colonial masters France and Britain have passed the law on this, and they are supporting it. In Seychelles, politically, we see ourselves as Africans and in Africa there is strong resistance towards this type of behaviour and it does not conform to the African culture, so we will have to decide as a country what our position will be through conversations, but like I am saying we have signed human rights conventions, there will be pressure, human rights institutions are being established, and they will have to educate themselves. The LGBTI community will have to use these institutions to claim their rights”.

 Mr Matombe says that there should be more education on the issue of LGBTI, not just at organisations level such as NCC and the Ministry of Education but also with a social conscience on a spiritual level more than religious. “We must understand that we are all sinners, those who do not sin cast the first stone just like Jesus said. We must realise, that sometimes we will be challenged with some ideas that we are not comfortable with, but we need to challenge ourselves to think beyond, and verify if the prejudice we have is not doing more harm than good. I believe this is a reflection that we have to do on a national level”.

This article was written by Juliette Dine. It is part of Gender Links #VoiceandChoice series. It was first published in the Seychelles Nation




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