New guidelines have been issued by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to make adoption easier. These revised issues will also improve adoption rates in India. The new guidelines have made it easier for singles, divorced, unwed mothers or fathers, and separated people to adopt.
However, as a result of this move, recently, Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation established by Mother Teresa, which runs several orphanages, all over the world, announced that it was giving up its status as an adoption centre. A news website quoted a nun from Missionaries of Charity as saying, “A mother cannot play the father’s role, and a father cannot play the mother’s role.”
According to Sunil Arora, president of the Federation of Adoption Agencies, the number of single parents in India, opting for adoption, has dropped drastically in the past seven to 10 years. “Overall, I feel, even the cases of married couples opting for adoption are on the decline. It’s probably because of our hectic lifestyles, and the fact that having a new member in the house requires additional finances,” he says.
As a rule, agencies provide counselling to every individual who approaches them in order to prevent people from having second thoughts after adopting a child. And, according to Arora, many who come for adoption back out after undergoing these sessions. He adds, “We put several perspectives and scenarios in front of people, who want to be single parents. After weighing the pros and cons, many back out.” But what about the single parents who ultimately go ahead and adopt?
Not an easy road
Thirty-four-year-old Sharmila Gupta, who works in the corporate communication wing of a company, belongs to a conservative family. She didn’t find a partner of her choice, and she decided not to marry until she finds love. However, Gupta’s maternal instincts led her to adopt a boy, who is now four years old. “There was a lot of opposition from my family when I told them that I wanted to adopt. One of the worries that my family had was that my child’s biological parents could be from a caste, which is different from mine. I went against everybody’s wishes, and adopted a boy. Even today, my extended family looks down upon my child,” she says.
Neelima Mehta, 40, who works in the human resource department of a firm, and has a 12-year-old adopted daughter, is also in a similar situation. She, too, faces discrimination from her family. In fact, that’s how her daughter found out that she was adopted. “My family would frequently bring up the issue in front of my daughter. As she grew up, she began understanding why the fights happened, and one day, she asked me who her real parents were. In fact, there came a time when she stopped considering me her mother,” she says.
At times, the extreme fear of discrimination also forces people into hiding their decision. And they feel that it’s about time that perceptions towards adoption are altered. Munisha Chako, 41, a bank employee, who has a seven-year-old daughter, voices the same concern. She says, “Because of the fear of discrimination, I have not told my employers that I have an adopted daughter. I have told them that I’m her biological mother. The guidelines introduced by the government may help single mothers, but there also should be some kind of mechanism to check the harassment that people who adopt children.”
However, things are a little different for divorcees, according to experts, who, unlike singles, usually stay away from adoption. “In my 21 years in this profession, I‘ve never come across any divorced person who wants to adopt,” says Arora, who is associated with several adoption agencies in Maharashtra. Relationship expert, Kinjal Pandya, echoes a similar stance. “Divorced people usually don’t go in for adoption, maybe because of the social stigma that is still attached to it.”
(Names of some individuals have been changed on request)