New Delhi: Winds of change are sweeping through urban India, a country traditionally known for its male preference. Many city-dwellers who don`t have children of their own are opting for adoption, particularly of girls.
Such is the enthusiasm that the waiting period to adopt a girl is as much as it is for a boy, unlike in the past when most couples wanted a boy, says a spokesperson of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), a wing of the ministry of women and child development.
"The mindset of people is changing, especially young people who don`t have a gender bias. There are many socio-economic reasons for adopting a child - late marriage, risk of bearing children at an older age, or simply not being able to conceive," Sandip Kusalkar, public relations coordinator at Snehalaya, an NGO based in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, told reporters.
"Here we see young-educated couples from cities opting for a girl child whereas rural couples still prefer boys," he added.
The adoption rate in general has gone up.
According to CARA, in 2010, the total number of kids adopted in India were 6,286 - the figure includes inter-country adoptions (by NRIs or foreigners) - compared to 2,518 in 2009. This clearly shows that within a decade there has been a nearly 40 percent increase in the adoption rate.
It used to be common for people to want a son to carry forward the family name, but not any more, says Delhi-based Nirbhay Sharma, who adopted a one-year-old girl in 2009.
"There is more focus on achievement. Your legacy goes beyond the name and is more driven by the impact that you create. There is more focus on what you have done. And family heritage is determined more by the culture and upbringing of the child, irrespective of a boy or a girl," said Sharma.
"So we never thought about such aspects, but we knew we wanted a girl. And it just happened that when my wife and I first saw this little girl in the adoption centre, she crawled towards us and we knew, she was the one," he added.
Their daughter Swati, whom they adopted in 2009, is now three years old.
According to a report, about 600 children were adopted in one year from Delhi-based Palna, a home for abandoned, homeless and destitute children, and about 65 percent of them were girls.
Adoptions come under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956. Under this act, a single parent or married couple is not permitted to adopt more than one child of the same sex.
But Bollywood actress Sushmita Sen is an exception -- she is not only a single mother, but has adopted two girls - Renne and Alisah and has proved to be a caring parent, despite her hectic schedules.
There are certain rules that one has to keep in mind before adopting.
A person wishing to adopt a child should be at least 21 years old. While a single woman can adopt a child, a single male is usually not eligible. An exception in this case is choreographer Sandip Soparrkar, who adopted a baby boy.
And last, but not the least, a single man can only adopt a male child and not a female.
Pune-based Ajay Edlabadkar and his wife Meera are one such couple who adopted a girl, Kripa, a year back just because they always wanted one.
"We never wanted a boy. And when we decided to adopt a child, we knew it had to be a girl. So we got in touch with an adoption centre and then they did some background checking and all, but things were smooth and fine," said Ajay.
Ajay also feels the choice was obvious because a girl is always more "mature" than a boy.
"There is no denying that girls are more mature and understanding than boys. As a parent one always wants to have warmth and love around and a girl or, say, a woman always scores on this front," he said.
The process of adoption is no longer tedious, but patience is a must.
"Once a person comes to us for adoption, they have to give in certain specifications like age, gender, so that we can find a suitable match. And once done, the child is shown to prospective parents," said Kusalkar.