India – Adoption norms may become easier for women
Mahendra Kumar Singh & Himanshi Dhawan
NEW DELHI: In a move that will empower women to take guardianship and adopt irrespective of their marital status, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday
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will consider amendments to the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (GAWA) and Hindu Adoption Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA).
At present, if a couple adopts a child, it is the man who is the guardian. The proposed amendments will make the status of the guardian gender-neutral. They will also make it easier for men or women living separately from their spouse, though not formally divorced, to adopt. However, consent of the spouse will be mandatory to adopt.
According to the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), officially, 6,000 children are up for adoption at present but activists say the numbers are much higher. Added to that are the unaccounted number of children living on the streets, abandoned or deserted children and children of migrant workers and commercial sex workers. While the government recognizes these children to be in need of care, little is done in that direction.
Law Commission member Kirti Singh said both proposed amendments were welcome but expressed concern that these legislations required an overhaul.
NGOs have welcomed the government’s move to amend adoption laws but advised caution. Pratidhi’s Raj Mangal Prasad said, “It is a positive step. Laws must be made flexible for children in need of care and protection. But a monitoring mechanism should be in place so that this is not misused.”
Jerry Pinto from NGO Butterflies said the proposed amendments would open more doors for abandoned or destitute children who were currently confined to non-caring institutions. “But we must be careful. How do you balance two vital roles that both parents play? There are many cases of single parents but it is an abnormal situation and not healthy for the child. Parents must make adequate arrangements for making up for the absence of the other spouse,” Pinto said.
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