Lost or abandoned children in Bangladesh are denied the chance of a normal childhood, as highlighted by a Daily Star report yesterday. If unclaimed by their legal parents, they end up in government shelters or orphanages where they can live till they are 18. However, as the country lacks uniform adoption laws, it is difficult, if not impossible, for other families to adopt these children and provide them a home and a new life.
Currently, legal adoption is only permissible for Hindu males who can adopt boys, but not girls; under the Hindu law, an adopted son would enjoy the same rights as a son born to the family. Under Muslim laws, Muslim families are only allowed to seek guardianship of children through the family courts. However, the process of guardianship does not confer any rights to the children, which makes it easy for extended families to deny them property. Worse still, it has been noted that, with no monitoring mechanism in place, many families take guardianship of children, but, rather than provide a loving home, they often treat them like servants.
In Bangladesh, there are many children who are in need of a home, and many families who wish to adopt children. Unfortunately, adoption, which was a simple and legal process in the country post-liberation, has been disallowed since 1981. It is high time for the government to reconsider this stance and adopt a uniform adoption law that enables these homeless children to find new parents, love and a place to call home. Meanwhile, a monitoring mechanism needs to be instituted to ensure that guardians do not ill-treat their adopted wards.