22/12/2015 8:20 AM IST | Updated 29/08/2016 8:59 PM IST

Why Indians Are Adopting More Girls Than Boys

A young girl full of kid happiness plays cricket with her brother and father on the banks of Galle as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean.

Here's a surprise: In a country where women have long been devalued, often with fatal results, it turns out that girls are preferred over boys among parents seeking to adopt a child.

This surprising revelation comes to light in adoption data spanning the past three years, and indicates a growing change in the mindset of Indians. According to the Central Adoption Resource Authority, 2846 girls were adopted in 2012-13, while the figure for boys was 1848. Though overall numbers for adoption fell in the next two years, the preference for girls remained: in 2013-14, 2293 girls were adopted in contrast to 1631 boys, and in 2014-15, the numbers were 2300 girls and 1688 boys.

As women become increasingly empowered and Indian society moves towards a more gender-equal balance, more parents might be encouraged to adopt girls.

There could be a number of reasons for this difference, a major one being that fewer boys are available for adoption than girls. However, the numbers do suggest that couples who are looking to adopt aren't fixated on the male child any longer, indicating a diversion from a long-standing Indian bias towards gender. The latter, if true, signifies a progressive trend for the country and its population.

However, what is worrying is the steady decline in the number of adoptions. Reports suggest that more than 9000 couples are already registered with CARA but the adoption figures aren't that encouraging - there were 6593 adoptions in 2011-12 but only 4362 in 2014-15, reflecting a steady downward trend.

Union cabinet minister Maneka Gandhi proposed a pretty ambitious figure of 15,000 adoptions for the current year, and has started taking steps to ensure that this target is met. Recent guidelines, laid down by the government in August, have brought in several refurbishments, urging that adoption agencies be more vigilant in their operations. The first phase mandates that agencies must be registered with the central database for children.

Jumping back to the figures and our original point of focus, girl children might be preferred for several possible reasons. The most striking one would be the increase in the number of single mothers looking to raise a girl child. The adoption figures have gone down but the last three years, but are still in favour of the fairer sex and that is a positive glimmer in an otherwise bleak scenario. In addition, better conditions for women in India may also play a role in encouraging prospective parents to take on what is seen as the additional challenge of raising a girl child. As women become increasingly empowered and Indian society moves towards a more gender-equal balance, more parents might be encouraged to adopt girls.

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