The couple, Nagarani and Kathirvel, say their son was stolen from them and was subsequently put up for adoption. The ruling by a Dutch court ends a four year court battle.
In 1999, the couple’s infant son was kidnapped from their home in Chennai, India. Five years later the kidnappers were arrested and they confessed that they had sold the boy to an orphanage in Chennai. Subsequently, the boy was put up for adoption by a Dutch couple through the mediation of a Dutch adoption agency.
With the help of Dutch organisation Against Child Trafficking (ACT), Nagarani and Kathirvel managed to retrace their son to the Netherlands – or rather: the boy who they believed was their son.
There was just one way to prove that Rahul (not the boy’s real name, for privacy reasons) was indeed the Indian couple’s son: a DNA test. The couple first requested such a test in 2007, but Rahul’s adoptive parents rejected it.
Last year, Nagarani and Kathirvel and their Dutch lawyers took the adoptive parents to court to order a DNA test. They later also accused the adoption agency and Rahul’s adoptive parents of kidnapping and child trafficking.
A family court in the Netherlands has now ruled that 12-year old Rahul cannot be forced to undergo a DNA test if he doesn’t want to. Although the court said that Nagarani and Kahtirvel “may well be” Rahul’s biological parents, it also stated that the interest of the child would prevail. “If the child does not want to take this any further, it’s his own decision and we should respect that,” the judge explained.
Nagarani and Kathirvel were subsequently ordered to pay court costs of up to 4,800 euros. They have since returned to India empty handed. They have not met Rahul or his adoptive parents during their stay in the Netherlands.
Hilbrand Westra of United Adoptees International says that this is a case of ‘nobody wins’. “ This ruling could be bad for all parties involved,” he told RNW. “It’s sad that this case had to be taken to court. It won’t do Rahul much good, I’m afraid. He’s been thrown into a situation he didn’t want to be involved in.”
Mr Westra says this court case revealed many shortcomings of adoption programmes which are running between the Western world and developing countries such as India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.
“There are fifty couples for every child that is put up for adoption,” he says. “So there’s a lot of competition between the parents and between the adoption agencies. Interests are huge. You never know what ‘s happened to the children before they’re picked up by these agencies.”
He thinks that adoptive parents have their own responsibilities when they’re trying to adopt a child through an agency, even if that agency is fully approved (as in Rahul’s case). “We tend to say: when in doubt, never cross the street,” Mr Westra says. “In some cases, things just aren’t right. Adoptive parents should always try to erase any doubts.”
“In Rahul’s case, it’s quite clear – the Indian court ruled in 2005 that he’d been kidnapped before he was put up for adoption,” Mr Westra says.
“That puts a different light on the subsequent adoption process, even if that process in itself was conducted legally and according to Dutch and Indian laws. The agency should have investigated Rahul’s background more thoroughly before they offered him to the Dutch adoptive couple.”
Mr Westra has one, rather simple solution for cases like Rahul’s: “Every adoptive child should undergo a DNA test before it’s handed over to adoptive parents,” he says. “In that case there can never be any doubt who its biological parents are, if those details are available, of course. But it’ll probably never happen as it will scare off many adoption agencies and adoptive parents.”
“Things really have to change. For Rahul, for his biological parents, but also for his adoptive parents. And for all children who will enter the adoption treadmill in the future. There are still a lot of taboos in the adoption world and the willingness to alter things is small. Without those changes, adoption won’t lose its reputation that in a way, it’s a modern way of people trafficking,” Mr Westra says.