It has been two years since actress Mandira Bedi is waiting to officially adopt a daughter. She already has an eight-year-old son and wishes to have a sister for him. She and her husband applied at the CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority), the central adoption agency under which any adoption across the country takes place – without any success so far.
Mandira Bedi is only one among many across the country who wish to adopt a child, and who face major obstacles.
Prospective adoptive parents in India have two legal possibilities to adopt a child: either under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, or irrespective of their religion, via the CARA, the primary facilitator of adoption. After registering online and uploading the relevant documents to an adoption agency, a social worker will draw up a home study report. The home study report is supposed to be completed within thirty days from the completed registration and remains valid for three years. Mandira can only hope that her application gets processed before she has to undergo another report.
A Child Cannot Be Given To An “Inferior” Family
Mandira and her husband could at least apply for adoption, in contrast to homosexual or unmarried couples. Same-sex marriages are not legal in India, therefore homosexual couples are not allowed to adopt a child together. The law debars the LGBTQIA+ community from adopting children together – demonstrating that homosexual couples still aren’t equal before the law. Reinstating Article 377 may have decriminalized homosexuality in India, but Indian mindset is still stigmatising LGBTQIA+ couples, as the statements of an officer of one of the five oldest adoption communities of Karnataka prove.
According to her, a child cannot be given away to an “inferior couple”, such gay or lesbian couples. “Gay culture is still not acceptable in India. A child should not go into such an inferior family. We prefer to place them in a wonderful healthy family. A family that is physically, mentally, and financially healthy,” Malti, who runs an adoption agency in Bengaluru, tells The Logical Indian.
Malti also believes that a child must be able to know the value of both a mother and a father, thus denying same-sex couples the ‘badge’ of a “wonderful healthy family”. She believes it is the responsibility of adoption agencies to be very selective when it comes to giving away an orphan.
While LGBTQIA+ couples are not entitled to adopt a child, India’s orphans are increasing each day. According to a new study by an international charity for orphaned and abandoned children, India is home to 20 million orphans, a figure projected to increase by 2021. Most of the orphanages maintain abysmally poor quality service in the orphanage.
Disturbingly, the law expects abandoned children to be raised without a family rather than being brought up by homosexual and trans couples.
With the new surrogacy bill, homosexual couples are also prohibited to have their own children through a surrogate mother. Introduced to prevent commercialization of surrogacy and to prohibit potential exploitation of the surrogate mother and the child, the bill is restricted to married Indian couples and by this, disqualifies other persons on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation.
According to Shruti Venkatesh, a queer rights activist, even with article 377 not in place, there are still some basic rights that are denied to the LGBTQIA+ community.
“It’s unfortunate and sexist that partners don’t have legal rights over a child and that only women as single parents have the right. The new proposed surrogacy law makes it even harder for queer persons looking to adopt. I see a lot of people satisfied with the striking down of section 377. A lot of them believe that the queer community has all their rights now. But in reality, there is so much more work to do and we are far from equality,” says Venkatesh.
Also Read: Good To Know: Adoption Laws In India