Saturday, November 25, 2006

Child Adoption - A Fad or A Need

The word Adoption has been floating in the news-waves for sometime now both in India and worldwide.

First there was the case of Madonna, who joined a growing list of celebrities including Mia Farrow, Angelina Jolie and Meg Ryan who have adopted children from developing countries. According to Madonna she has acted according to the law in taking custody of a 1-year-old Malawian boy,David Banda. But there is an other side to the story, debate about the legality and morality of the planned adoption. The subject of inter-country adoption has always raised a great deal of debate, in terms of ethical issues as well as the child's ability to adapt.

As per a Malawian law the would-be parents of the adopted kid should live in the country for a year while social welfare officers investigate their ability to care for a child before the final formalities are frozen.However, Malawi's High Court granted Madonna an interim adoption order giving her custody of the boy for 18 months by-passing the set rule. The court said that during that time, the couple would be "evaluated by the courts of Malawi as per the tribal customs of the country." Details here.

Madonna may have had to deal with a lot of criticism after adopting David but it turns out that she might be adopting again. While she was in Malawi she was going to adopt an 18-month-old girl named Jessica Kondanani. But when she saw how sick David was she adopted him instead. She had planned to go back for Jessica, but another couple is trying to adopt her as well and are afraid that Madonna would thwart their efforts.

Now this brings out many questions worth discussion: “Is Adoption the "it" thing to do among the rich and famous?” and “Is Adoption is good/bad?” and “Are people who adopt transracially are misguided?”

The latest buzz in this regard was when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were reported as looking to adopt a child while making their new film, A Mighty Heart in Pune. Angelina is an ambassador to UN, so probably she wants to add more diversity to her family and pep up her image of international citizen and hence this adoption. The couple already has three children: five-year-old Maddox, Zahara who is nearly two and five month old Shiloh, the last being their biological child and the former two were adopted.

Sources reveal : "Angelina has a philosophy that people enter your life for a reason, that you go to a place for a reason. This made India a perfect spot for them to explore introducing a new culture into their lives. She believes so strongly in adoption.

But later she ditched her plans when people started questioning the legality of adoption and may be for some other reasons.

The theme of adoption in India has been a popular subject for films and television, both of which are powerful instruments of information and mis-information. But of late the topic of adoption has been discussed and debated over vehemently. If one associated adoption with infertility, here are some reasons for adopting a young one. They are:

1.A couple with two or more children of the same sex.
If a couple already has two boys, and they desire for a girl child or vice versa. With no control over the sex of a natural child, they fear trying again. But they find it much safer to go ahead and adopt a child of the opposite sex. Some couples adopt children out of their specific choice of sex/gender of the child. Although the male child is still preferred, the number of families that have registered to adopt a baby girl has gone up. A detailed work in this field has been documented by Vinita Bhargava in her book "ADOPTION IN INDIA" . This book gives a clear picture of the scenario of adoption in the Indian context and touches on the lacunae in this domain.

2.A single person who wants to experience parenthood.
Miss Universe and film actress Sushmita Sen, is a 31 year-old single mother who had adopted a child, Renne long back. The little girl needed a mom and she needed a child and it was as simple and beautiful as that and today both are satisfied individuals.Not just celebrities, but also common people, who wish to remain single, adopt children, in order to experience the joys of parenthood.

3.People involved in their careers.
Some couples do not have the time, energy or the inclination to go through the process of childbirth. They find more convenient to go in for adoption. In some cases, the biological clock of career-oriented women may run out, and they may be compelled to adopt. Few such as Madhumita Deb, creative director, Leo Burnett, Delhi chose to adopt a child as she never wanted to be pregnant, yet she wanted to go through the grind of late nights and nappy changes.(Source: Article titled 'Welcome to she-zone' of the Week Magazine from Manorama Press dated Oct 8th’2006). Salaam Namaste, a popular Hindi flick released late last-year popularised and also glamorized single parenthood. Many single parents are better educated and are able to support themselves so marriage is no longer a financial prerequisite to parenthood. Under enormous work-pressure families are splitting-up and giving rise to single parenthood. The DINK (i.e. double income no kid) population is on rise in India, at least in the big metropolis and I feel adoption is going to be the key to make a complete family.

But is the road to Adoption in India that easy?

In India, there were different sets of rules for adoption based on religion and also the legal rights varied widely. With changing times, a new bill was legislated on 22nd Aug, 2006 by India's President. This bill set national norms for adoption, including the expansion of the definition of "abandoned and surrendered" children to include a juvenile found begging, a street child or a working child, permitting the adoption of a child regardless of religion or marital status and raising the age limit of adoptive parents. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill of 2006 has brought smiles to many a Indians like writer Dilip D’Souza and his wife Vibha.

Adoptions in India have increased 5-fold in the last 15 years.There used to be a shroud of secrecy around adoptions in India. Parents wanted the adopted child to integrate into the family and worried about the child being upset when he or she found out that s/he was not "their child". Also they worried about relatives or neighbors making a hurtful remark.

But times have changed and so is the attitude of an Indian. There are long waiting lists for adopting Indian children. In Delhi itself apparently there are only 250 kids available for 1140 applications. Maternity leave was generally not available to adoptive mothers in India, even though an adoptive mother needed it just as much as a biological mother. The central government recently passed an order reversing this situation in part. In March 2006, the Central government passed an order extending to adoptive mothers the maternity leave of 135 days that biological mothers are entitled to presently. Adoptive mothers can avail for the leave with fewer than two surviving children, for an adopted child upto one year old.

Still there remains a social stigma to this act…. Yes, a monumental task to reform this but am drawn back into thinking about what has been happening in the Western World.If it can happen there,why not here in my Swades.

Cross-posted at Desicritics .

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