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In India, More Girls Are Being Adopted. But The Good News Ends There!

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By Chaitanya Mallapur:

Outside a temple in the holy town of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, a two-day-old girl was abandoned on August 22 – a common enough occurrence across India. Indeed, five days later, a four-day-old girl was abandoned on a road outside a Lucknow neighbourhood.

Abandoning infant girls is common in our country, a reason why there are many more girls in Indian orphanages than boys, who are not usually abandoned. It’s a reflection of the low status accorded to girls in India.

CARAImg

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a division of the home ministry, 930 children were abandoned across India in 2013. This is clearly a dramatic underestimate. A report presented before the Supreme Court on abandonment estimates that 11 million children are abandoned, of which 90% are girls.

There are no official records of how many children are sheltered in orphanages. The Ministry of Women and Child Development does not maintain records of orphans. However, ChildLine India Foundation, a non-government organization (NGO) based in Mumbai which operates a 24-hour telephone helpline for children in distress, called Childline, says that there were 25 million orphans in India in 2007, according to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimate.

The bottom line is that only about 0.04% of abandoned children are adopted every year.

The only positive trend to emerge from abandonments is that many more girls than boys are being adopted across the country.

In 2013-14, 3,924 children were adopted all across India, of which 2,293 were girls and 1,631 were boys. Maharashtra adopted more children than any other state with 1,068 adoptions; however, the state adopted more boys, 543, than girls, 525. It was followed by West Bengal (366), Karnataka (320), Andhra Pradesh (272) and Tamil Nadu (187). In most other states, the adoption of girls is more than boys. While 1,270 girls were adopted, 943 boys were adopted among the top five states in 2013-14.

Another observation: the number of adoptions fell across the country: 5,964 (2011-12), 4,694 (2012-13) and 3,924 (2013-14), probably because of tightened adopted procedures after many incidents of child trafficking.

In 2012, a total of 308 Indian children were adopted in 33 countries around the world, with US citizens adopting 111 children, followed by Italy (59) and Spain (48). Maharashtra, with 81 adoptions tops the states as the leading choice for inter-country adoption, followed by Delhi (70). The number of adoptions declined from 629 in 2011 to 308 in 2012, which seems to have picked up in 2013 with a rise to 430 inter-country adoptions, according to the Central Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA). 

According to a senior CARA official, the reasons for the decline in adoption include increased awareness about child abandonment, family support and poverty-alleviation programmes.

“Single parent families who were abandoning children on grounds of poverty are now retaining their kids, with improving economic conditions. The second reason is the heightened restoration effort with biological parents leading to lesser giving up of children,” the official told IndiaSpend, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

Also, stronger measures are being taken to track missing children by various Government agencies after the Supreme Court direction on the ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save childhood campaign)’, a movement to safeguard children’s rights to end forced labor, child labor and trafficking. 

Asked about the growing number of girls adopted, the CARA official said adoptive parents prefer girls. “The other reason is the typical Indian preference for a male child,” the official said. “People use illegal methods to adopt boys. Hence the inflow of boys coming into legal adoption is less compared to girls. Therefore, the adoption of girls is more.”

Sunil Arora, executive director, Bal Asha Trust, a home for abandoned and destitute children looking after their education, healthcare and adoption, and Vice President, Federation of Adoption, Maharashtra, said new-age couples in metro and semi-metro cities understand that there is no difference between a boy and a girl.

“Girls are now progressing in every field and these parents have no apprehensions. Since there is no data available for how many girls or boys are abandoned, it’s difficult to compare data.”

Arora said many special needs children find loving and caring homes outside India.  “We recently placed a five-year old HIV-positive child with a (foreign) family. This is an important development for two reasons: the child finds a home; and HIV children can also find loving and caring families. They need not live in orphanages for life without a family’s support and love.”

Adoptions in India were previously practised under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 and Guardian and Wards Act, 1890. According to this act, only Hindus, which includes Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, could legally adopt children. Adoption was not allowed under the personal laws of Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews in India; they could only be guardians of a child through the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890.

Arora said the pace of adoption may change with the new Juvenile Justice Act. “It is quite possible that the process is getting streamlined and time-bound, and more children who are without families and are legally free for adoption may find homes.”

Lorraine Campos, assistant director of Palna, one of Delhi’s biggest orphanages, said: “With the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 coming into force now, anybody can adopt children legally, irrespective of their religion.”

Image Credit: CARA

This article was originally published by IndiaSpend.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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