In Pakistan couples and even single men and women have a hard time deciding to adopt, mostly because of the fear of social reactions. For single women or man to adopt a child is very difficult.
We don’t choose our family, they say. We don’t get to make a choice about the ‘who’ when it comes to flesh and blood – who will be my parent, my sibling, my child. We often also do not choose the ‘when’, especially in the case of children. Often, we become parents at a less than optimal time, a tad bit too young or a wee bit too old. But when we decide to adopt, we are making a careful choice, one that is not without deliberation and careful thinking. Especially for a woman in Pakistani society, as they end up being the ones answering most questions in social gatherings – ranging from why she doesn’t have a child to even more invasive questions about ‘where was the baby adopted from’ if she went ahead with the decision to adopt.
In case of a woman with her husband, it was the best decision of their life. “We decided to adopt a baby five years after we got married; we had been trying for a child for more than three years at that point smiling as her 12 -month-old adopted daughter plays with her hair and face. But in a society that is certainly baby-friendly but predominantly not adoption-friendly, it was a decision they had to carefully weigh.
“My husband and I had always wanted to adopt a baby, even if we had had our own biological children” she says. We both were keen to give an orphan child the opportunity to be a part of a loving family. But strangely, when adoption became our only option, we found ourselves a little less certain,” she says.
The reservations are justified for a number of reasons. For starters, the law, or a lack thereof, makes adoption a difficult choice.
There are currently no laws governing adoption in Pakistan the only legal relationship you can establish with the child is to become their guardian under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. In order to become the child’s guardian, the adoptive parents have to file a petition in court.
Because of this gap in our laws, adoptive parents cannot make birth certificates and B Forms for their adopted children, if they disclose the fact that they are adopted. “Most adoptive parents therefore simply state that the child was born at home when they go to have their birth certificate and B Form made,” That’s why a lot of adoptive parents never reveal to the law that the child is adopted.
Now coming to a case of a single woman who has never been married, but is financially independent and has strong family support, contacting every orphanage or organization in the matter was discouraging. “They’d usually say, ‘You are young and good-looking. Why don’t you get married and have your own children?’ reply would be that that is a personal choice. And even some of these people are famous philanthropists who run well-known centers.
After a long wait, she finally got a call from a a very small social welfare organization that a baby, a couple of days old, was available for adoption. Yet, her trial was not over. While the laws of legal guardianship are strict, most couples take advantage of loopholes to avoid long procedural issues and declare the child as their own. As a single woman, she could not do that. The result: her child had no B Form till five years of age and admission into school became an issue. While her own problem may have been solved, she is now actively following the developments and policies regarding registration of adopted children.
For single parents, adoption is doubly difficult. “Institutions dealing with adoption are reluctant to give a child to a single woman for fear that if that woman subsequently marries, she may abandon that child if her new husband is not keen on raising it. Adoption may also be hard for single fathers as the majority of babies up for adoption are girls and institutions are reluctant to hand over a baby girl to a single male parent.
At a certain point, religion does step in. While Islam strongly encourages care and nurturing of orphans and unclaimed children, what it does not allow is giving an adopted child or society the illusion that she is the biological child of the adoptive parents. In Islam, the persons raising an orphan child are not permitted to give that child the surname of the adoptive father, and the child is not entitled to inherit from them like a blood heir. The adoptive parents, of course, may gift any asset to that child in their lifetime, and leave a share for that child in their will.
The fear of the unknown genetic and hereditary baggage that comes with a child scares off many people who consider adoption. If a biological child makes rash choices in life, it may be just a phase. But if an adopted adolescent indulges in drug usage or promiscuous behavior, the unknown linage and tendencies are blamed. There is a stigma attached to a shady background with adopted children, partly because we fear the unknown and mostly because of the reasoning that if these children are the ones ‘left behind’ by biological parents, it is assumed that they are illegitimate. It is also then an unsaid assumption that some of the promiscuity of that act has left a genetic residue in the child. Ridiculous as that may sound, many people believe that.
Once it comes to marriage, adopted children face problems. My adopted daughter, 22, liked a boy, whose family was happy about the prospect of their marriage. But since they have found out that she is adopted, the ‘pata naheen kis ka khoon hai’ dynamic has come into play, and they don’t want their son to marry her anymore,” a woman says.
It seems that when children are taken up for adoption, good looks are the currency that is deemed most valuable. Children who are plain-looking have a hard time getting accepted into homes – everyone wants a cherubic angel from the calendar posters.
The problem is exacerbated if the child does not look like the adoptive parents or the adoptive parents are ‘fairer’ or deemed ‘better-looking’ compared to the child.
Despite the challenges, an adopted child succeeds in filling the emotional void childless couples suffer. Adopting our baby daughter was one of the best things that we have ever done.
As stated above there is no specific law regarding the adoption of a child in Pakistan, simply a verbal consent or an adoptions deed is sufficient. However, to facilitate the foreign nationals or who are residing outside of Pakistan, below practice is prevailing in Pakistan.
1. A medical report (Form ICA) has to be completed by a reputable doctor
2. A report has to be written by the adoptive parents containing the following information: i. Name of child; ii. Date of Birth of Child; iii. Place of Birth; and iv. Name and Address of Terminating Parent;
3. A statement detailing (a) when adopting parents arrived in Pakistan (if they are foreigners or living in foreign), (b) when the baby was given to them; and, (c) information given by the parents about the baby’s circumstances.
4. Filing of ” Suit For Declaration And Termination Of Parental Rights’
5. submission of adoption deed or get recorded consent of parents
6. Final arguments & decree by the Court
7.On receiving the abandonment/declaration certificate, adopting parents shall need to get legal custody of child by applying for guardianship of the child in a civil/ family court in Pakistan under the provisions of the Guardians and Wards Act 1890 (GWA). The procedure for such application is stated in section 10 of the GWA.
8. After getting a guardianship decree from the court, adopting parents will have to obtain a “B” form, also called CRC (Child Registration Certificate), from the offices of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and get a National Identity Card (NIC) number issued for the baby. Once adopting parents have received the “B” form with the NIC number they can apply and get a Pakistani passport made for the child. Parents who reside overseas can apply for a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) for their child.