For the first time, women will be given the same rights as men to guardianship and adoption of children, even if they are single. A new law to make this effective appears set to become a reality this year.
According to the existing law, in case a couple wants to adopt a child, the father is the natural guardian. The proposed amendment to the 120 year-old Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, includes the mother along with the father to be appointed as a guardian, making the process gender neutral.
The parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, which is examining the bill to amend the existing laws, is unanimous in its acceptance of the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, introduced in the Rajya Sabha in April.
"The bill provides for the mother to be appointed as a guardian along with the father so that the courts don't appoint anyone else, in case the father ceases to exist," said Law Minister M Veerappa Moily.
Noted constitutional expert Rajeev Dhavan said once this law comes into existence, mothers would have equal rights as that of the father.
"She would be responsible even as a trustee of the property, in case the minor child inherits his or her share of the property," he said.
The second amendment, proposed in the Hindu Adoption Maintenance Act, 1956, aims to remove hurdles in the way of a married woman to adopt and give a child for adoption, based only on her marital status.
Presently, unmarried and divorced women, as also widows are allowed to adopt, but women separated from their husbands and engaged in divorce battles, cannot adopt a child.
The new amendment would allow married single women to adopt with the consent of her husband till the divorce proceedings are completed.