June 21, 2011 / telegraphindia.com
It is strange that in begetting a child, or in adopting him or her, the parents involved always seem to think more about themselves than about the child who is to enter their lives. If their relationship breaks up in future, the child will have to bear the burden of a fractured life. While it is true that if every couple had such paralysing forebodings then the population count of a country would drop alarmingly, it is also true that parental responsibility involves imagining every possible situation that may affect a child adversely and taking measures to avoid these. In India, where child protection laws are woefully inadequate, if not faulty, it is good to know that the government is acting with the child’s interests in mind. A soon-to-be-issued government notification will make it mandatory for couples to have at least two years of a stable marital relationship before they can adopt. Conversely, couples in live-in relationships will not be considered eligible for adoption of children. Nor can a single male adopt a girl child. This might seem conservative at first, but the proposed law is actually premised on laudable concern for a child’s well being.
It is necessary that a child gets a stable environment at home, perhaps even more so when he or she is adopted. However difficult, and embarrassing, it might be to acknowledge this, the fact remains that at least a semblance of stability can be provided by a legally and socially sanctioned relationship such as marriage. There are, in India, still sufficient social constraints for married couples to try and hold on together in spite of stresses. Live-in relationships are free of this pressure, and cannot offer the adopted child even this appearance of a legal guarantee. What would happen to the adopted child if the live-in couple chose to separate? The Supreme Court has ruled that children born out of wedlock can be legal heirs to their parents’ property. But this does not extend to adopted children. If a live-in arrangement breaks up, an adopted child could be left adrift, in a position similar to the one from which he or she was adopted. The other clause of the government guideline, denying single males the right to adopt girl children, is as sound as the one discussed. In an issue such as adoption, while much depends on the presumed goodness of the future parents, it should never be taken for granted. It is always better to be safe than sorry when a child’s life is at stake.