Government figures have indicated that the trend of single women adopting children is on the rise in India. Around 412 single women have registered with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) since August 2015, when the new adoption guidelines were announced, mandating parents who wished to adopt to register themselves online.
Out of the 412 single women, 75 of them adopted a child in 2015, following which the number increased to 93 in 2016. In 2015 and 2016, around 2,903 and 2,671 children were adopted in India respectively. CARA is an autonomous body under the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry that monitors and regulates the adoption of Indian children.
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The figures are not as high as they were in 2011, when the Census data put the number of single women who had adopted children at 71.4 million. But gender experts say that it is a welcome trend and that the numbers will continue to rise.
However, few single men too have come forward and adopted a child. Around 28 single men registered with CARA since August 2015. Out of the 28, only five of them adopted children in 2015, while the number was seven in 2016. The new guidelines clearly specify that a single male is not allowed to adopt a girl child. It also states that a single parent, aged 55 years or above, would not be eligible to adopt a child.
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"Single women were allowed to adopt children earlier also, but not many came forward. But with awareness and societal attitude towards single women changing, more of them are coming forward to adopt. Transparent adoption procedures have also helped," Colonel Deepak Kumar, CARA secretary, was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying.
Adoption figures in India continue to be low overall. From 2016 to March 14, 2017, around 2,671 children were adopted in India. Even though there are no official figures available, surveys conducted by NGOs reveal that there are an estimated 50,000 orphans in India.
Officials from the WCD Ministry have admitted that the adoption centres do not encourage giving a child for adoption to single women even though the rules strictly say that there should be no discrimination if a parent fulfills the eligibility criteria to adopt a child. They added that another reason could be the low availability of children legally up for adoption in the formal system, HT reported. Only 1,800 children are available for adoption for around 14,000 parents who wish to adopt a child.
There are orphanages too that do not register children only to operate illegally. WCD minister Maneka Gandhi had also written to Health Minister JP Nadda recently with regard to the matter and requested him to take action against "unscrupulous" nursing homes, hospitals and their agents, who do not register children born to unwed mothers or parents who do not wish to keep a child under the legal system of adoption.