Friday, 24 June 2011

Live-in couples cannot adopt! Is marriage a must?

MARRIAGE will be a must for those dying to adopt a child if a proposed move of the ministry of women and child development is approved. It is proposed that live-in couples should not be able to adopt, and an unmarried or single man shouldn’t be able to adopt a girl child.

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Unsurprisingly, there’s much disappointment and single men and live-in couples lash out against the move.

"It’s unfair — you can't put all men in the same basket and call them pedophiles. Adoption agencies should have a thorough study of the person before handing over the child. The law has to reflect the times," says ace choreographer Sandip Soparrkar. Though he became the first single father to adopt in the country, Soparrkar had to put up with red tape for four years before he could adopt in 2007. He wanted a girl, but he was told single men couldn’t adopt a girl child so he had to be content with a son.

But now his life revolves around his six-year-old son, Arjun. Waking up Arjun in the morning, dropping him to school, helping him with homework, playing with him before bedtime, Soparrkar would rather miss a starstudded party than any of these chores.

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BACKING the view, Mumbai-based clinical psychologist Anjali Chhabria says that it’s unfair to make a blanket statement that all men are abusers. "Sexual abuse can happen anywhere, not necessarily inside homes. What would make more sense is that the prospective adoptive parent (single dad) should be made to undergo psychological assessment," she says.

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SOPARRKAR also feels that the rules are heavily biased against single dads. "Post-adoption too, the bias continues. When I applied for my son’s passport, the column for mother had to be filled whereas single mothers are exempted from it,” he says.

Defending the government’s move, Leila Beig, secretary, Coordinating Voluntary Adoption Resource Agency (CVARA), says, adoption rules are framed in the child’s best interest. “ For us, the security of the child comes first. If we can’t find a secure couple, we prefer single women. The chance of sexual abuse is one reason; the fact that a single dad won’t be able to fulfill all the emotional needs of a girl child in her adolescence is the other,” says Beig.

However, child psychologist Deepali Batra says that it’s a stereotyped notion that women are more maternal. "It depends on the personality of the individual.

All women are not maternal, whereas I have come across a good number of men who are sensitive and caring. However, it’s important to assess a person before adoption,” says Batra.

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THE argument that live-in couples can’t adopt since the relationship isn’t stable has also raised hackles.

Living-in for the past 23 years, Sandhya Gokhale and Mihir Desai feel it’s wrong to assume that only marriages are stable.

But they admit that the adopted kid may be deprived of her rights unless live-in relationships get legal sanction. "No live-in couple can adopt a child unless they hide the relationship — and that will be hard on the child,” says Gokhale, a Mumbai-based software consultant.

Viplav Gaurav and his live-in partner Meenakshi Singh too are sorely disappointed and feel the laws should be drafted keeping in mind changing social realities.

Though the two have not thought of adopting, Gaurav says the right of adoption should not be denied. “ What’s the issue if we are living together to know each other better? Look around and see how unstable most of the so- called stable marriages are? It’s an archaic notion that only a piece of paper can validate a marriage,” says the Delhibased media professional.

Dr Chhabria also feels that the concept of stable marriage is overrated. "The stability of marriages is subjective as I am seeing a rise in the number of divorces these days," she says.

Putting the chances of a breakup in marriages and live-in relationships on par, Dr Batra feels mostly societal compulsions keeps rocky marriages working.

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