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NEW DELHI: In a big step forward towards empowering the women across religious divide, a parliamentary Standing Committee has unanimously recommended that women be given equal rights in guardianship and adoption of children.
In its report on the Personal Laws Amendment Bill, 2010 — introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 22 — the Standing Committee on Law and Justice has said personal laws cannot be kept away from the principles of gender equality and gender justice. "The committee is of the view that the amendments proposed in the bill would place the mother on an equal footing with the father with respect to the right of guardianship and the right to adopt," it said.
The bill, which seeks to amend the Guardians and Wards Act (GWA), 1890, and the Hindu Adoption Maintenance Act, 1956, is likely to be tabled in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing monsoon session.
According to GWA, which applies to Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jews, if a couple adopts a child, the father is the natural guardian.
The proposed amendment to the 120-year-old Act allows the mother along with the father to be appointed as a guardian, making the process gender neutral. The bill provides for the mother to be appointed as a guardian along with the father so that the courts do not appoint anyone else in case the father dies.
The second amendment, proposed in the Hindu Adoption Maintenance Act, 1956, (applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs) aims to remove the hurdles in the way of a married woman to adopt and also give a child for adoption. At present, unmarried and divorced women as also widows are allowed to adopt a child but women separated from their husbands and engaged in lengthy divorce battles cannot adopt a child.
The amendment would allow a married woman separated from her husband to adopt with the consent of her husband even during the time of divorce proceedings. However, if he changes his religion or is declared to be of unsound mind, no consent from the estranged husband will be required.