Single mothers need easy adoption laws
July 4: Former Miss Universe and actor Sushmita Sen made waves by her decision to adopt not one but two baby girls as a single parent. But she has hardly set off a trend as women like her are still few and far between in the country. Santhosh Vas, former chairperson, Child Welfare Committee (CWC), says she has not come across many single women in Karnataka adopting children although there are plenty of abandoned babies in the state.
But could this situation be about to change? Are we likely to see more single mothers with the government likely to amend the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, to bring in more gender equality in matters of adoption? Legal experts, who report that an increasing number of girls are filing for divorce today, bolstered by their more financially independant status, feel it’s only a matter of time before they begin to want the joys of motherhood too without a husband in tow.
While there is already a provision under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance act, 1956, for a woman who is not married, or whose marriage has been dissolved or who is a widow to adopt a child, the new amendment, among other things, allows married women fighting lengthy divorce battles to adopt children without their partner’s consent, in the years between.
Noted advocate, Hemalatha Mahishi feels that the new law is bound to help women as many more of them are opting for divorce today since they are financially independent and unable to accept traditional male dominance. “They can no longer accept insults or humiliation and as parents too are supportive today, more of them see divorce as a way out of unhappy marriages. Now with the planned amendment allowing them to adopt a child even before the divorce gets through, they could opt for it so as to not miss the joys of motherhood while waiting to be free of their spouses,” she says. Former chairperson of the state women’s commission Pramila Nesargi too thinks that with marriage no longer being the only goal of women these days and as they are usually able to support themselves, more of them may opt to adopt children while still single in their quest to find an heir for their property and also enjoy the joys of parenthood. “With girls delaying marriage in pursuit of a career, more of them could adopt children even when not married,” agrees filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh, a single mother herself.
But Ms Mahishi warns that single mothers in their quest for parenthood, must not forget to legally adopt the child as otherwise he or she will not be able to inherit property. “They must make sure the adoption is legal in the interest of the children they bring into their lives,” she cautions
the law may be about to make it easier for women to adopt children while saying goodbye to their spouses, but it's obviously a step that cannot be taken without careful thought.
"Will a woman going through a divorce be in a state of mind to take on the additional responsibility of an adopted child when she is going through her own trauma," asks filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh, a single mother herself.
Kumar Jahgirdhar, president, Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting, comes up with yet another pitfall. In his view a woman who adopts a child during her divorce, may find it difficult to patch things up with her husband, should she want to do so later, as he may not want to take on the additionally responsibility thrust on him without his consent.
"Adopting a child is a life time responsibility," warns Ms Lankesh, explaining that women will need some family support, and a fatherly figure for their adopted child to be able to raise him or her successfully. "They may find that grandparents may be happy to play with the child, but not help them take care of it," she says..
"My entire career changed after Isha was born. I work late in the night after she sleeps and still need to be fresh when she wakes up. How much ever you do, a mother always feels that something more needs to be done. But women are good at multi-tasking, and as they usually handle most of the responsibility of bringing up children even in a normal family, single mothers are certainly upto the job, " she adds.
Dr Sathyanarayana, a psychiatrist, suggests that as the child needs both parents for all round development, a single woman should try to see there is someone her adopted child can look upto as a father figure.
Senior advocate Hemalatha Mahishi feels that if creches are provided at the workplace and if employers are more flexibile in their outlook single women will find it easier to bring up their children.
With the government mooting the amendment of The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, the state is likely to witness an increase in the number of single women opting for adoption. Experts too feel that with marriage no longer being the priority of career driven, financially stable women these days, more may go in for adoption to find an heir for their property and also enjoy the joys of parenthood, reports Shilpa P.Former Miss Universe and actor
Women may get adoption rights
Chennai, June 19: A Bill seeking to make it easier for women to adopt children is likely to be tabled in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
Some amendments have been proposed to remove discrimination against women, especially unmarried women and widows, said Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on personnel, public grievances and law and justice, on Saturday.
Amendments would be brought to the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956 and Hindu Guardians and Wards Act to remove the discrimination, she said.
Speaking to mediapersons after chairing the meeting of the committee here, Ms Natarajan said the amendments would facilitate the appointment of women as “guardians” of children. Stating that most states favoured the proposed amendment, she was hopeful that the Bill would be passed in the Monsoon Session.
On Saturday’s meeting, she said the committee was entrusted with the job of conducting a nationwide study about the status of women employees, with a specific mandate to assess aspects like women employees’ promotion in public sector undertakings.
A policy has been proposed for women employees and public sector units have assured to consider the suggestions.
Adoption to get gender neutral
It’s good news for women who want to adopt a child in our country sans a man as a guardian of the child. According to a recent report, the Union Cabinet is contemplating amendments to the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (GAWA) and Hindu Adoption Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA).
As per the current adoption laws, when any couple adopts a child, it is the man who is the guardian. These amendments will make the status of the guardian gender neutral. These changes will also make adoption easier for men and women who have separated from their spouse. Women welcome this move to make changes in the existing adoption laws.
The proposed amendments for adoption laws aim to make the tedious procedure of guardianship more amicable for single women. Soumya Chandran, a PR professional who wants to adopt a child in the future, says, “With these amendments, single women in our patriarchal society can also raise a child on their own. It will be a great change and strengthen women power because now they won’t need a man anymore to raise a child.”
Earlier, for women who had separated from their husbands due to conflict or personal disputes, getting legal guardianship of their children from the father was a Herculean task.
Smita Sinha (name changed on request), an IT professional and a mother of a 10-year-old boy expresses her delight at this decision. She says, “I am happy that the laws for adoption and guardianship are being amended. A few years ago, when I was getting divorced, I had a tough time getting my son’s custody. Now I think women won’t have to fight and go through the tedious procedures in the court to get legal rights of their own children.”
Many women feel that these revisions in the existing adoption laws will bring them at par with their male counterparts and give them equal rights.
Sutapa Sen, a GIS analyst at a private firm is thrilled with this move. “These amendments seem to be good and if implemented, this would go on to become a milestone in the history of women’s empowerment. It will also be beneficial to the child, since he/she will not face any legal problem regarding custody and guardianship if the couple is getting divorced,” she says.