Finally, women will now have the same legal rights as men on guardianship and adoption of children, irrespective of their marital status.
The Parliament on Saturday unanimously passed The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which paves the way for making guardianship and adoption gender neutral, in all major religions practiced in the country. It will become a law soon after the President signs the bill passed by both Houses.
The first amendment cleared by the Lok Sabha brings a change in the 120 year-old Guardians and Wards Act (GWA), 1890, which applies to Christians, Muslims Parsis and Jews. Rajya Sabha had cleared the bill earlier this week.
According to the new position, if a couple adopts a child, mother will now be appointed as a guardian along with father. Till now, only the father was considered a natural guardian.
“Amend the clause to include the mother along with the father as a fit person to be appointed as a guardian so that courts shall not appoint any other person as a guardian of minor, if either of the parents is fit to be the guardian,” states the bill.
“We want to end discrimination against women and provide them legal equality in all spheres of life,” said law minister M. Veerappa Moily.
The second amendment applies to the Hindu Adoption Maintenance Act, 1956, (applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs). It removes the hurdle in the way of a married woman to adopt and also give a child for adoption, merely on the basis of her marital status.
Till now, unmarried and divorced women, as also widows are allowed to adopt a child, but women separated from their husbands and engaged in lengthy divorce battles, were not allowed to adopt a child.
This will allow a married woman separated from her husband to adopt with the consent of her husband even during divorce proceedings. However, if the husband has changed his religion or is declared of an unsound mind, no consent from the him would be required.
The law ministry said once this law comes into force, 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,” a senior ministry official said.