Gaborone–On Monday 15 September , the Botswana High Court will hear a constitutional challenge to the Adoption of Children Act. The Act permits a child who is born out of wedlock to be adopted by a third party without the consent of the child’s biological father.

“The people who lose out most under this law are children born out of wedlock. Through our Children’s Rights Project, we have seen the negative impact of adoptions like these on children’s welfare,” says Cindy Kelemi from the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA). BONELA is advocating for law reform in child adoption to ensure that it is aligned with the principles enshrined in the Children’s Act of 2009.

George Khwarae brought this challenge to the Act arguing that without a change to the law his minor daughter, who was born out of wedlock and with whom he has had a relationship since she was born, will be adopted against his wishes. Given that he has been involved in her life since she was born, he argues that the Adoption Act violates his rights under the Constitution.

“The law requires that the best interests of the child are paramount. It is not in the child’s best interests when fathers who have parented and cared for the child can have their parental rights terminated without their consent in all circumstances,” says Annabel Raw, a project lawyer with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which is providing assistance on the case.

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