Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 52, Tuesday, June 8, 2004




a d o p t i o n

RIMA and Javed married in haste right after their final exams at school. Theirs was a love affair, which faced astronomical parental objections. Faced with such staunch opposition, they abandoned their initial plans of completing their studies, getting jobs and winning their parents' consent, and tied the knot in a big hurry. You know what they say about the best-laid plans…

Two years into the marriage Rima had to undergo an abortion. Having a child at that stage of their lives would skew their future plans. Thinking of this, they decided to have an abortion…
alas, it was at the hands of an unskilled doctor. The operation resulted in internal complications for Rima and ten years later, when they were actually ready to have a child, they found that they could not conceive.

The couple has been going to well-qualified doctors on a regular basis, and there is reason to believe that Rima can be a mother, but the two families make the once-happy couple's life a living hell. Questions arise why the couple do not or cannot have children. They are constantly bombarded with awkward question related to this and as a result they go to family occasions only when absolutely necessary. The couple spends time huddled inside a bubble of their own two lives. Rima tutors at a school while Javed stays busy with his garments business. At some point of time they start thinking of adopting someone else's child.

Dear readers, there are many couples like this in our country who are living without the joy of being parents. There are many that are adopting or at least thinking of adoption. On the other hand, there are many children who grow up never knowing who their actual parents were. But then again there are others who later on end up having two sets of parents and are quite happy with the resulting situation.

Childless couples or the children without parents are sometimes seen as the outcasts. Adoption solves this problem easily and it is something that has been going on for, well, forever. Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) was brought up by his uncle Abu Taleb. Jesus Christ grew up in someone else's care. In the olden days adopting was free of any hesitation, anxiety or societal objections. In the present times it is a matter bounded by rules and regulations.

There are couples who already have a child but cannot have any more due to physical disabilities. Take the case of Shamima and Amin. A lengthy 15 years have passed by since the birth of their boy, Tonmoy. For married couples that is a long period. In all that time they had desperately wanted a daughter. In the end, they managed to adopt the newborn girl of a close relative. Their family became complete through the aid of adoption.

In yet another case Shanta and Ratan got married pretty late, both having passed middle age. Doctors dishearteningly told them that they could not have a baby. What hurt most was hearing snide remarks from family members that without a child there would be no one to "continue the family name". There were suggestions of a second marriage to a younger woman. Comments like this made the couple more distraught. Going abroad for infertility treatment wasn't a financially viable option. Their friends helpfully suggested adopting a child from an orphanage but family members had an official say in this matter too. An adopted baby would not have the family blood coursing through its veins.

Their maid on the other hand, suggested Shanta to go on a trip for a while and adopt a baby there. Later she could tell everyone that the child was theirs. Shanta thought for a long while and felt that it was an implausible idea, but even so, she mentioned it to Ratan who felt it was an answer to his dreams.

He told his parents that his new posting was in Khagrachari and he would need to move there with his wife. Three years later he comes back with a lovely baby cradled in his wife's arms. The official story? Magical herbal medicine of the tribal people of Khagrachari did the trick. Our society has such a narrow outlook on adoption that this couple had to go to such dramatic lengths to bring home a child. Oh well, at least everyone is happy.

So far we have peeked into the lives of couples who are taking in someone else's child. On the flip side of the coin we are presented with a different picture. How about the people who blindly give up their children? What are the stories of their lives? There are several reasons behind giving up a child for adoption primary among which, are financial and mental instability. Also there is the fact that the children maybe orphans without a shelter.

Poverty pushes many people to give up their children. The poor people with the poor family planning end up having too many children who they cannot look after properly. Never mind education, when they can barely afford basic necessities of food and clothing. If you look at the children on the streets, clothes are sometimes no concern at all. Children are given up to better off families in return for some monetary help.

At times there might not be any financial hardship but the child may still be given up. It could be a psychological reason where the actual parent feels a sense of great benevolence in this act. This does happen among close relatives. Many have a child and still adopt another in the name of doing their civic or religious duty.

Despite all the complications adopting a child brings out the inner qualities of a human being. It's an act that overlooks petty grievances and opens up the heart to greater possibilities.

Adopting a child: The social viewpoint
Although Bangladesh has progressed a little in terms of wealth and prosperity, it is still far behind in open-minded thinking. Lack of education, clinging superstitions and ancient social structures bar the entry of new ideas and instead use those ideas as an issue for new problems.

In our society, people have a habit of poking their noses very, very far into other people's business. Personal matters become a great headache for others. Adoption is such a matter where everyone from family members to neighbours and the maids of their neighbours are dying to have their opinions heard. If those who are giving or taking a child can do so with a free mind then why cannot the people surrounding them just keep their mouths shut? They can come up with a hundred questions and opinions to confuse, obscure and alienate. Even the child growing up is not spared from this harassment. S/he is seen in a different way almost as an outsider. Some adoptees might feel less of a part of the family when suddenly they find from actual outsiders that they have been adopted.

Some children may hear of this and never discuss with the adopted parents. It may create a void that could lead to mental instability. It shows outward signs through lack of interest in food, studies, sports and previously favoured personal pursuits. It is not uncommon for such children to regress into a shell.

On the other hand many parents let their ward know of their history to avoid such unpleasantness later on. This could have a negative impact later on with the child reacting too sensitively to minor mistakes or lack of attention by the parents.

In the eyes of the family
Rehnuma and Shahed were a childless couple who took in a newborn baby called Simran. Surprisingly the next year Rehnuma gave birth to a baby daughter and called her Muskan. The two girls were the gems of the family. There were no differences in the way the parents treated the children till they grew a little older. Things began to change gradually as the younger daughter was sent to a posh private school while the older one was sent to a local public school. In fact, this was a pretty big change. Simran would help out the mother with the housework and as a result school work suffered. Muskan on the other hand was never allowed to do anything else but concentrate on studies. It was a mystery to Simran why she got so less from her parents in terms of love and attention. This sort of treatment can become a type of mental torture for many. It creates a sense of unease and insecurity as they get older. Small wonder that it alienates them from the family. Other activities in life also suffer from this lack of attachment. A lot of times it can be seen that adopted children are thus pushed away first by the parents and then by the meddlesome society. Of course, not all the outcomes are this harrowing. After all, light and darkness do reside together.

The law
Adopted children are abused in many ways, which has led to the many rules and regulations that exist in countries abroad regarding who can adopt and who cannot. Such families are kept on a sort of probation. During this time they are placed under observation to evaluate the financial and mental status along with recording the family history. When the child grows up he or she can also access this information. There are many welfare organisations that try to ensure that adopted children do not suffer abuse.

Where do the laws in our country stand, in terms of the welfare of such children? All parties have to submit a legal form through an attorney stating all the necessary facts. It contains details of names, financial status, occupation, reason for the application etc. The legal institution grants custody after six months of observation. This, however, is not before both parties sign legally stamped documents pertaining to the facts of the adoption so that neither can create trouble later on.

Just how many people know about these rules? What about the people of the lower echelons who literally sell their children for 5000-10000 taka? Do they even know that there are rules? Do the educated people even bother to abide by these rules? Lack of interest and publicity leaves these laws lying dormant within the pages of dusty books. Unfortunately these ignored laws are so important in our society.

For a family without children the arrival of one is seen as the ambassador of happiness. Countless dreams are woven around this person. In our country there aren't any acknowledgeable institutions, governmental or otherwise that help to facilitate this issue. The most that is done is by friends and family members who act as intermediaries between people who want to give, and people who want to take a child. Along with this are the doctors, hospital nurses, maids at clinics and many others. The medical staffs are close to the patients and know a lot in this regard. It is also risky for those that fall into the hands of people who are more interested in the lines of trading than in adoption. In fact, some unscrupulous hospital staff literally trade in babies by selling them off like cattle. There have been countless newspaper reports of newborn babies stolen from the nursery. As a result many people resort to adopting from orphanages where this risk of foul play is absent. The only way a family can bring in a new member is by proving itself to the authorities.

In retrospect
The people surrounding the families in most cases come to no aid other than to make the whole matter an ordeal. As if that is not bad enough, recently there has developed an abominable practice of literally trading in human babies from hospitals and clinics. These difficulties aside, child in a home is what adds the icing to the cake. It makes a family complete whether the child is adopt ed or not. Only the adopting parents and the ones who are giving away their child will know all the trials, pains and joy of the occasion.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny



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