To a shocking degree, the topic of children’s rights (including child sex trafficking) is treated as a niche concern. In mainstream international law, as well (of course) as law schools, it is almost unheard of to have a general mobilization of interest around children and their rights and needs. Perhaps because of this general neglect, there is a tragic tendency to argue about children’s rights through the proxy of celebrity “activities”–notably, celebrity adoptions. I say tragic, because the lives of children and the correct–ethical, proper, humane–solutions to their problems has nothing much to do with these highly unrepresentative and unenlightening celebrity events. There is so little normal attention paid to these matters in the day to day, it is understandable–but deeply flawed–that so many seize on celebrity-induced moments of press attention to argue the rights and wrongs of adoption, orphanage care, and the child’s cultural identity.
It isn’t that the matters raised, for example by the Madonna adoption in Malawi, are not important–but these issues are important quite apart from this specific adoption, about which we actually know very little. It is clear to me that international adoption will never gain general acceptance if advocates fail to grapple with all the challenging and compelling arguments about wealth, poverty and culture.