President Pratibha Patil has signed into law a bill giving Indian women equal rights as men in adopting children and becoming guardians of minors, including their own children, it was announced on Thursday.
The president removed the age-old gender discrimination against women by giving her assent to the Personal Laws Amendment Bill, 2010, which was passed by parliament in its monsoon session which concluded last week, according to a law ministry press release.
Following the presidential assent Aug 31, the bill was notified Sep 1 as the Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010 or the Act 30 of 2010 in the Gazette of India, the release added. The Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010 has removed two gender discriminatory provisions from two different laws – the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
The Guardians Act allowed a court to appoint either the father, or any other person in case the father was not alive, as the guardian of a minor child, thus diluting the mother’s claim to be appointed guardian of her child in case of her husband’s death, it said. But the latest amendment to the act has removed this anomaly and the courts will no longer be free to appoint any other person as guardian of the child, ignoring the mother’s claim.
This amendment was made under a recommendation in the 83rd report of the Law Commission of India, the release added. Similarly, the Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010 has now amended sections 8 and 9 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, giving women equal rights as men in matters of adopting children or giving her children in adoption to others.
Following the amendment to the 1956 act, any major Hindu woman, of sound mind, is also entitled to adopt a son or daughter or give her son or their daughter in adoption.
If married and if her husband is alive, who is of sound mind, the woman, then, will have to take the consent of her husband for adopting the children. The law till now entitled only men to adopt children or give them in adoption, albeit in consultation with their living wife, but not vice versa.
Explaining the reasons behind seeking a change in the law, the statement of reasons of the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 said that as per 2001 census, the female population in India constitutes about 48.26 percent of the total population. “The constitution of India guarantees equality of status and equality of opportunity to all citizens, irrespective of the fact whether they are men and women, there is also a growing demand for making laws free from gender bias and to provide legal equality to women in all spheres of life.”