Giving away babies on TV

The circumstances of adoption should not be insensitively revealed to the child.

Rabia Ahmed August 04, 2013
The writer is a freelance writer and translator

Adoption offers couples the opportunity to raise and love their own child. It allows them to give the child a loving home and family — everything the child did not previously possess. And even though adoption generally turns out to be a mutually happy solution, it is a serious and emotional process — the journey itself is not easy.

Prospective parents looking to adopt a child are vetted in a notoriously rigorous manner. Their ages, health, social reputation and financial standing are thoroughly investigated before they receive a child. But this initial investigation is only the beginning.

Imagine the agony an adopting couple has to suffer through.

Should their child be told that he or she is adopted? Islam advises parents to tell the child very soon, which is a good idea in most cases. The premise here is that every human being has a right to know about his or her past. A young child is quicker to accept the information compared with an older one. It may come as a great shock for an adult to discover that he or she was adopted, especially after a lifetime of assuming otherwise.

It is often an outsider who is aware of the adoption and has no qualms about crushing everyone else in the stampede to be the ‘first to tell’, who tells the child. Usually this person is responsible for the child being given this information in an inappropriate manner. There are such people in every society. Sometimes the child finds out not as a deliberate act on someone’s part, but because that someone may have spoken of the matter in front of their child and that child blurts it out as children do. It is impossible to contain the information genie (something that our Ministry of Information and Technology would do well to remember).

When and how should a child be given such information? And above all, what should he be told so that his trauma is minimised?

Family and friends of adoptive parents should be taken into confidence selectively, only so that the circumstances of adoption are not insensitively revealed to the child. Such information should be revealed carefully, after careful deliberation and at the right time.

“This is a beautiful girl who was thrown on a pile of garbage by somebody”, cooed the presenter of a show, displaying a baby in his arms to the camera before adding, “See how pretty and innocent she is?”

I wonder if he realised that in addition to be being pretty and innocent, she was also a human being, with a life purpose beyond the presenter’s personal ratings on television. Surely, there is something distinctly sick about such ruthlessness.

The adoptive parents’ identity was not hidden from the public. It is easy to imagine a day in the future when this innocent, unwary child is taunted at school by other children in ways that I cannot bear to mention here. A brilliant way to find out, isn’t it?

The suppression of discussion about such incidents only allows such acts to proliferate. Pakistan, with its mind-boggling population, should learn to encourage adoption and also be more sensitive towards the problems inherent in the process — to protect adopted children in this society.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2013.

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