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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Adoptive mums win maternity right
By Upasana Bhat
BBC News, Delhi

Indian children playing
There are fewer than 3,000 adoptions in India every year
Women who adopt babies in India will now be eligible for maternity leave, a federal government order says.

The order says that women who adopt children up to the age of one year will get 135 days of leave - the same as maternity leave for biological mothers.

The move will help adoptive parents to bond with children, campaigners say.

Fewer than 3,000 adoptions take place every year in India, according to an estimate. There are about 12 million orphans in the country.

'Emotional bonding'

Atmaja, an association of parents who have adopted children, had lobbied hard for maternity rights for those it represents since it was set up in 2000.

Its chairperson, Nilanjana Gupta says "the adopted child and the adoptive mother need time together to create the strong emotional bonding".

Indian children
Experts say adoption is a 'second best' option with most Indians

Ms Gupta says many of Atmaja's members have had to take leave without pay in order to stay with their children.

"Many of us have felt torn when we had to leave the child to go to work," she says.

Ms Gupta, who is a teacher, says it was tough when seven-month-old Ananya was first brought into their home.

"She would tightly hold on to my clothes when I had to leave for work. She would cry and scream when she was taken away and was extremely insecure."

Ms Gupta says the infant had been taken to three homes before she joined them.

"Ananya did not know how to smile or cry, an indication of the total lack of social, personal and emotional interaction in her previous circumstances."

"Even things that we consider instinctive behaviour - such as crying when hungry - had to be taught to her. She did not know initially that if she cried, a caring family would rush to see what was wrong. So for the first two to three months, she never cried."

In many cases, Ms Gupta says, including her own, the children suffer from diseases and are often malnourished.

Though happy with the government order, Ms Gupta feels it is "illogical" to link the duration of maternity leave with the age of the adopted child.

"An older child often takes longer to accept the new family and may suffer from psychological trauma, including a deep sense of insecurity, which needs love and care by parents to overcome."

'Simpler laws'

Bharati Dasgupta, who works with Catalyst For Social Action which deals with adoption issues, says simpler legal procedures on adoption are needed.

"Too many procedures lead to delays. An adoption takes anywhere between six months to two years," she says.

Nilanjana Gupta says though there is a positive change in favour of adoption in India, it is still regarded as a "second-best" option.

She agrees it is "only natural" for people to want a biological child, but feels there is a need for more awareness about the fact that adoption is a "good option" and that "eventually it does not matter how the child comes into the family".

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