New parents in Sweden have become the first same-sex couple to adopt a child, after Colombian authorities allowed same-sex couples to adopt children from the country. This could mean that same-sex couples in Iceland can soon adopt children from abroad too.
Iceland has had an adoption agreement with Colombia for almost three decades and 15 children have been adopted from there to Iceland in the past 15 years. The oldest Icelandic children from Colombia are today in their late twenties so there‘s a strong relationship between the two countries. Recently a new opportunity opened up for adoptable children in Colombia and some future parents in Iceland, when same-sex couples were allowed to adopt children from Colombia.
„It‘s now possible, yes,” says Kristinn Ingvarsson, director of the Icelandic Adoption Society, Íslensk ættleiðing. “What happened was that a gay couple in Sweden, one of which is a Colombian citizen, applied to adopt a child from Colombia and when refused, appealed to the Supreme Court. The Colombian Supreme Court then ruled that everybody should have equal rights to adopt, in spite of their sexual orientation.“
Colombia and Iceland already have an established agreement regarding intercountry adoptions so same-sex couples in Iceland have nothing to wait for; they can apply right away. However, in recent years adoptions from Colombia have slowed down, the process in general takes a long time and the country currently only accepts applications for adoptions of children with specific needs or children over the age of seven.
But surely the news has stirred things up amongst the queer community in Iceland? “Íslensk ættleiðing (ÍÆ) has always offered their services to everybody who seeks our help, given that applicants meet the requirements made by The National Commissioner on Adoption. In Iceland, simply everybody can apply for an adoption, whether they’re registered cohabitants, a married couple or individuals, absolutely regardless of their sexual orientation. It‘s the fact that other states don‘t allow same-sex couples to adopt that‘s been the obstacle. Now that Colombia has allowed it, not only in theory but in practice, same-sex couples in Iceland are of course welcome to give it a try. So far, they haven‘t; we published the news about Colombia on our website a few weeks ago and I was expecting some reaction but we haven‘t received any applications from a same-sex couple yet and we do not have any same-sex couples on a waiting list.“
„… It‘s the fact that other states don‘t allow same-sex couples to adopt that‘s been the obstacle. Now that Colombia has allowed it, not only in theory but in practice, same-sex couples in Iceland are of course welcome to give it a try.“
Icelandic Adopton Society has accreditation to mediate adoptions from five countries of origin: Bulgaria, Togo, China, Czech Republic and Colombia. Kristinn explains that the way the organization operates, the needs and welfare of a child is always the focal point. “It’s not every person’s right to be a parent but it’s every child’s right to have a parent. That’s how we operate, other interests than the child’s always come second.”
Iceland has legally allowed same-sex couples to adopt since 2006 but in reality, same-sex couples haven‘t been able to adopt children from overseas yet. Have same-sex couples shown much interest in adopting in the past years? “We‘ve had a few people making enquiries ever since Iceland allowed same-sex couples to adopt but only once did a lesbian couple go through all the procedures and apply. But then the problem of course was that the foreign states we have agreements with didn‘t allow that their children would be adopted by same-sex couples so even though they met Icelandic requirements and in fact received a pre-approval, there was no foreign state that they could apply to.”
But has ÍÆ made an effort to establish agreements with states that allow adoptions to same-sex couples? „So far, it‘s only been South Africa that does, and now Colombia too. ÍÆ has made an effort to establish cooperation with South Africa, and we’re still trying, but we have not been successful yet.”
In many ways Iceland takes lead when it comes to human rights and therefore, human rights of queer people are more advanced here than in many other states. But therein lays an obstacle. “Laws and regulations at our end are fine, there‘s nothing we or Icelandic authorities further need to do, or can do, to make it easier for same-sex couples to adopt children from overseas. Iceland has its own laws, regulations and culture and other states have theirs, which we have to respect. All we can do is wait until same-sex couples, or queer people, have reached the same stage of human rights as they have here Iceland,” Kristinn explains.
„And as with all human rights, we as people should encourage such changes in other countries and help our fellow humans to fight for human rights over there. We have to respect that foreign states are very concerned about their children. It‘s a big deal for every state to have their most precious citizens adopted out of the country, it’s an absolute last resort and the authorities are very concerned that their culture and values still get respected. So it goes without saying that in states where same-sex relationships are not considered a norm like here, the authorities have a problem with allowing foreign same-sex couples to adopt their children.”
Kristinn is moderately optimistic the obstacle for same-sex couples has now been removed entirely. “I‘m not sure this is the breakthrough that some people hope it is. If Colombia gets flooded with applications from same-sex couples, there is always the possibility that it slows down the process so that there just won‘t be any adoptions in general, there aren’t that many at the moment.
„… this might mean that children over the age of seven and children with specific needs, who more seldom get adopted, will have a better chance of getting a family.“
But then again, this might mean that children over the age of seven and children with specific needs, who more seldom get adopted, will have a better chance of getting a family. If same-sex couples are willing to adopt them then that‘s a group of children that is available at the moment.”
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