Mumbai: The Union cabinet has decided to stop same-sex couples from adopting children in a move that could also prevent the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from becoming adoptive parents.
The cabinet took the decision on Wednesday while considering amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, a government official said. However, the draft Bill, which also covers rehabilitation and adoption of children, does not mention disallowing same-sex couples from adopting.
The current law allows unmarried men and women above the age of 30 to adopt. Single LGBT Indians are not specifically barred from adopting, but whether the cabinet decision will change this will become clear whenever the Bill is tabled in Parliament.
The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) guidelines prevent foreigners in same-sex relationships from adopting children in India. CARA is a statutory body of the ministry of women and child development that regulates adoption of children by foreigners and Indian residents through inter-country and in-country adoption regulations, respectively.
Many Indian LGBT persons in same-sex relationships have adopted children as single parents, but their partners have no legal rights over the child.
Danny, a 44-year-old transman who adopted a two-year-old girl with his partner two years ago said, “At a time when the whole world is progressing with respect to LGBT rights, India has taken several steps back with this decision to prevent same-sex couples from adopting.” The Delhi-based craft exporter adopted the child as a single parent, and his sister is her guardian.
“This is the first time that the government has openly taken an anti-same-sex couple stand,” said Poornima (name changed), a 33-year-old Delhi-based activist who has initiated the process of adopting a child. Even without the proposed Bill, there are stumbling blocks—one of the documents Poornima must submit is a recommendation letter from a family member. However, her family is not supportive of her sexuality or her decision to adopt. Her partner, whose family is in favour of both—the planned adoption and her relationship with Poornima—is 28 years old, and needs to wait two more years before she can legally adopt.
Gay rights activist Chayanika Shah said that the cabinet decision may not affect people like Poornima, because there is no existing recognition of same-sex couples in India. “This order then applies to any adoption that gay couples, whose relationships are recognized in their country of residence, might avail of,” she said.
Women’s rights lawyer Veena Gowda said, “The government is putting the horse before the cart. It has demonstrated the bias of the state against same-sex relationships.”
Shah said: “In future if there are demands for any kind of similar recognition of rights in India, this government has clearly indicated that it does not support gay parenting.”