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Expanding Adoption Rights

The legal rights of women on adoption have been enlarged, but the adoption process needs deeper review.

Parliament recently passed the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 modifying two laws – the Guardians and Wards Act (GWA) of 1890 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) of 1956 – relating to the legal rights of women on adoption. With the amendment to the GWA, the mother of an adopted child will also now be legally recognised in non-Hindu communities as a guardian. And with the change to the HAMA, a married Hindu woman who is in the midst of divorce proceedings will be able to adopt or give a child in adoption with her husband’s consent. The parliamentary committee on law and justice had earlier unanimously recommended the bill, pointing out that personal laws cannot be excluded from the principles of gender equality and gender justice.

Adoption practices have witnessed a number of changes in the country, and for the better. The emphasis on adopting fair complexioned, male children and more importantly, the need to maintain secrecy, may not have disappeared but has lessened considerably. As adoption agencies testify, beginning with the late 1990s single women have been turning to adoption in larger numbers than before. The fact that HAMA permits single men and women to adopt children has been utilised lately by financially independent urban women.

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