Back in May, we were discussing the Central Adoption Research Agency’s new adoption rules, which promised to end supermarket-style shopping of children and under which prospective parents would be shown only one child (instead of three). The Women and Child Development Ministry has now announced that single Indian women above the age of 40, with the financial ability to raise a child, would be given preference in the process of adopting a child.
This means that women who meet this criteria will be placed ahead of others in the long queues for adopting a child. Given that there are only 2000 children legally available for adoption, and 16,000 couples and individuals who have registered for adopting a child, this becomes particularly significant.
It will also reduce the discrimination that single women have reported facing when trying to adopt child. Amy Thanawala, a filmmaker, said to the Huffington Post that she felt couples were prioritised over single women in the adoption process. This move should help address that in favour of single women.
Avinash Kumar, a member of the Central Adoption Research Agency, said to the Indian Express that the move also takes into account the fact that single women often don’t have the same support systems from their families or significant others as other women do, and that’s why single women who are clear that they want to adopt a child should be encouraged to do so. They’ve also taken into account the growing number of requests for adoption from single women.
It’s a nice move that will benefit single women greatly, but it’s really surprising, and shows just how huge a role the government plays in creating, altering and prohibiting different kinds of family structures, and in privileging some kinds of family structures over others. It also shows how arbitrary its decisions in these matters can be. So while the Women and Child Development Ministry is making the adoption process much simpler for single women, the soon-to-be-implemented Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 passed by the Union Cabinet last August, prohibits single men and women, and gay couples, from opting for surrogacy.
Why the difference? Who knows. The Women and Child Development Ministry says that adoption decisions are taken with the child’s best interests in mind, and it’s in the child’s interest to be adopted by women who meet the specified criteria. But what about women themselves? If it were women who were being centred and focused on here, wouldn’t they also be allowed to opt for surrogacy if they wanted to?