India wants British couples to adopt their unwanted girls
British couples are being urged to help save millions of Indian baby girls from lives of abuse and misery.
The Indian government is relaxing its adoption rules to encourage more British and other western couples to reduce the number of orphans living on the streets, and abandoned in squalid and dirty children’s homes throughout the country.
There are more than 11 million abandoned children in India, and ministers want more families – both Indian and British – to offer loving homes.
Under current rules, it takes more than a year for British and other foreign families to successfully adopt an Indian baby, but under new government plans couples will be able to complete the formalities in just 45 days.
The emphasis will be on finding new families for thousands of babies – most of them unwanted girls – dumped in ‘street cots’ attached to childrens homes in India’s major cities.
The government is anxious that infants dumped in homes are given to new families before they are six months old. They fear institutionalisation could starve them of the love and nuturing they need to develop.
The new rules will give new hope to British families who have faced increasing problems adopting overseas. In the last few years Russia, China, Romania and Cambodia have all raised bureaucratic hurdles, and some, like Romania, have suspended foreign adoptions altogether.
India however has unique problems which ministers believe foreign adoption could play a part in solving. Thousands of Indian baby girls are killed at birth by poor mothers who cannot afford the lavish weddings and dowries they would one day be lumbered with, and also by middle-class women under pressure to bear their husband a prized son.
The government has encouraged more ‘street cribs’ to give mothers of unwanted daughters an alternative to ‘female infanticide.’ If it is successful, it will mean even more baby girls being dumped in orphanages, and more to find families for.
Officials say they will still give priority to Indian families looking to adopt, but traditional prejudices against adopted children mean too few come forward to help. Each year around 4,000 orphans are adopted, and only three thousand of them are taken in by Indian families.
In some Delhi orphanages, like North Delhi’s ‘Cradle’ home, where around five babies are dumped every week, as many as fifty per cent of unwanted children go to families in Britain, the United States, Spain and Denmark.
Staff at the home say Indian families are often reluctant to take dark skinned babies or children whose complexions are not a good match with their own. The stigma against adoption and infertility is so great that many families adopt a well-matched child and pretend to relatives that it is their own baby.
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