Missionaries of Charity is Acting Stubbornly on New Adoption Rules
File picture of a nun belonging to the  Missionaries of Charity feeding an orphan at “Shishu Bhavan”, Kolkata.  (Photo: Reuters)
File picture of a nun belonging to the Missionaries of Charity feeding an orphan at “Shishu Bhavan”, Kolkata. (Photo: Reuters)

Missionaries of Charity is Acting Stubbornly on New Adoption Rules

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Resisting Social Change

  • Missionaries of Charity decides to put an end to its adoption services after government notifies new rules
  • Religious bias in terms of the adoptive parent being a homosexual has made the Missionaries of Charity to take this decision
  • Ironically, the missionaries’ decision comes at a time when the Pope seems to be articulating progressive views
  • Fears of trafficking may be justified, but unfortunate that a humanitarian organisation is resistant to change
  • On the brighter side, issue may lead to a debate on the rights of homosexuals

Till some weeks back, the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) were the front runners in facilitating adoption of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children in India. Protesting the Indian government’s 2015 guidelines for adoption, they will no more be the conveyor of filial joy to many a childless family. Converting their fourteen adoption centres into children homes, the Missionaries of Charity have given a jolt to the Central Adoption Resource Authority’s plan to scale up their efforts in improving the adoption rate in India. While the government cannot force Missionaries of Charity to remain a part of the adoption ecosystem in the country, the civil society may certainly ask tough questions on their stand.

As per reports in media, the Missionaries of Charity have seen the new adoption guidelines as violating their religious beliefs. The fear of the adoptive parent turning out to be a homosexual is what has forced the Missionaries of Charity to stop their decades-old adoption services. Not only is this orthodox worldview discriminatory, it also leaves the future of many children in the lurch. By opting out, the organisation has further weakened India’s adoption network which is in dire need of revitalisation. Can this be considered a wise, or even humane move?



By protesting against new policy, the Missionaries of Charity has further weakened India’s adoption network which is in dire need of revitalisation. (Photo: iStock)
By protesting against new policy, the Missionaries of Charity has further weakened India’s adoption network which is in dire need of revitalisation. (Photo: iStock)

Progressive Pope Versus the Missionaries

The MoC’s unwillingness to let go the dogmas surrounding heterosexual marriage is even more of an eyesore in the backdrop of Pope Francis’s largesse towards the hitherto pariahs of the Catholic church. While the Pope seems to be penning progressive narratives of religion, organisations like the MoC are slouching backwards in their doctrinaire approach towards religious dicta.

It can be safely assumed that the MoC nuns are acting out of concern for the adopted children and have their best interests in mind. In a country infested with the horrors of child trafficking, the organisation cannot be faulted for being over cautious.

However, the premise of homosexuality being immoral and unsafe for children is wrong at multiple levels. To begin with, a majority of scientists and sociologists working in relevant areas believe that children raised by homosexual parents are not at any additional disadvantage owing to their parenting environment. As long as the household is stable, the heteronormative insistence on a mother-father-child arrangement is largely irrelevant.

Resisting Social Change

All major religions of the world unanimously decry the pleasure aspect of the sexual act, for kosher sex is only for the sole purpose of procreation. The distrust of the MoC towards homosexuals, therefore, can be easily decoded. How can people choosing sex-for-pleasure over sex-for-procreation be entrusted with the responsibility of the outcome of the latter? Did they not reject it in the first place? Add to this the other binaries of good/evil, sacred/cursed, et al and you have the unchallenged reign of heteronormativity.

It can be safely assumed that the Missionaries of Charity nuns are acting out of concern for the adopted children and have their best interests in mind. (Photo: Reuters)
It can be safely assumed that the Missionaries of Charity nuns are acting out of concern for the adopted children and have their best interests in mind. (Photo: Reuters)

It is unfortunate that a humanitarian organisation resists social changes, even at the cost of the future of helpless minors under its protection. In a progressive move this year, the Supreme Court of India recognised the guardianship role of unwed mothers. Now, legally at least, no aspersions can be cast on single women’s ability to raise children. Unfortunately, homosexuality is still not decriminalised in India, closing legal doors for potential adoptive parents who happen to be homosexuals. On the brighter side, let us all hope that the action of Missionaries of Charity will inspire a renewed discourse on the rights of homosexuals in the country.

Until then, do remember, ‘missionary’ is not the only way.

(The writer is Associate Fellow (Gender Studies), Observer Research Foundation)

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