India does not lack in laws. And Indian laws are often strikingly forward-looking and broad-minded — the divorce law or the law against domestic violence, for example. In that sense, laws do not always reflect the dominant attitudes in society. The laws for adoption of children have undergone a number of changes since they were first promulgated, but they should be included among the forward-looking laws. So it is good news that the Centre is thinking of ways to hone the laws further. The Union minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, has recently announced four possible changes. The first is a question of tightening the time-frame. The home assessment prior to adoption usually takes two months. This will be shortened to one month so that adoptive parents do not have to wait too long. At present the entire process from start to finish takes almost a year, which may often be discouraging. The second proposed change is administrative, although the goal is the same — quicker and easier availability for adoption of children waiting for parents. The Central Adoption Research Agency, which is at present linked to only 70 adoption agencies in the country, will be linked to all 400. The other two proposed changes have to do with easier adoption from abroad — prospective adoptive parents from overseas will be considered at par with adoptive parents within the country, although at present the latter are given preference in a queue, and inter-country adoption of children of relatives will be made easier. There are other plans too, by which orphaned, abandoned or surrendered (given up for adoption) children will be cleared for adoption faster than they are now.
As often with forward-looking laws, Indian society was rather slow to catch up. For a long time, adoption was not a popular idea; social prejudices ran too deep. It gradually caught on in the late 1980s and has now become perfectly respectable. For once, a progressive law aided a change in social attitudes. But adoption is still chiefly considered an option for the childless, although in this sphere, girls are often preferred to boys. Slightly older children, or those with darker complexions, still find it difficult to be adopted. Perhaps with the simplification of adoption laws these hurdles will be gradually overcome. Giving a child a happy home may even become a goal by itself.