RS approves equal rights for women on guardianship

A bill paving way for the women to get equal rights in guardianship and adoption of children was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2010, 20:57 PM IST

New Delhi: A bill paving way for the women to
get equal rights in guardianship and adoption of children was
passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The Personal Laws Amendment Bill, 2010 seeks to amend the
Guardians and Wards Act (GWA), 1890 and the Hindu Adoptions
and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956.

It seeks to allow the mother along with the father to be
appointed as a guardian, making the process gender-neutral.
Besides, it aims at removing hurdles in the way of a married
woman to adopt. She can give a son or daughter for adoption.

"The amendment will make both the mother and father the
natural guardians of the child," Law Minister Veerappa Moily
said while replying to the debate on it.

He said the Centre also proposes to make marriage
registration compulsory and the state governments are taking
steps in this regard.

For adoption and guardianship, under the existing Act,
only the father is considered to be the natural guardian of
the child in a Hindu family and only unmarried, divorced women
and widows are allowed to adopt a child. Women separated from
their husbands and engaged in lengthy divorce battles cannot
adopt a child.

"It (the bill) will have a far reaching impact on bringing
gender equality and gender neutrality," Moily said.

He said it sends the message that Parliamentary democracy
has matured and the psyche has changed.

"We should take a pledge, particularly men, that we should
never allow our women to be degraded and looked down...Male
chauvinism and dominance should disappear," he said, adding,
women`s identity has to be reasserted.

On demand from the BJP for a uniform civil code, he said,
"Uniform civil code is not possible as it requires changes in
Personal Laws of the Minority Community."

He said the UPA Government has maintained that it should
not interfere in these laws.

Earlier, participating in the debate Venkaiah Naidu (BJP)
demanded a Common Civil Code and setting up of a Commission or
sub-Committee to study the matter.

"Common civil code is the need of the hour," he said
pointing out that when even Muslim countries can be governed
by a common law, why not India. "There is no common law here
because of the vote politics," he said.

"Even the Supreme Court has said umpteen number of times
-- 20 times -- that the country must go for Common Civil
Code," he said, adding that the former Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi had taken a step in this direction but "back-tracked".

Prabha Thakur (Cong), T N Seema (CPI-M), Tiruchi Siva
(DMK) and JP Trivedi (NCP) also participated in the debate.

The bill, which was earlier introduced in the Rajya Sabha
on April 22, was referred to the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Law and Justice for eliciting public opinion on
the issue.

The committee had recommended that the Bill be passed in
the same form.

It had said the Bill is an important legislation aimed at
strengthening women`s rights and that personal laws cannot be
kept away from the principles of gender equality and gender
justice.

PTI