updated 14 Mar 2011, 10:41
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Mon, Mar 14, 2011
Asia News Network
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Successful and not afraid to be single mums

Indian actress and beauty queen Sushmita Sen has always been fascinated by the idea of becoming a mother.

The Bollywood star surprised her family when she first announced her decision to become a mum at the age of 18. That was right after joining the Miss India pageant in 1994.

Her participation in the pageant - which most young Indian girls dream of - has brought many surprises to her life. It gave her the title of Miss India and Miss Universe, which allowed her easy access to the Indian film industry, Bollywood.

It was also during the run up to the competition-when she came close to poor and impoverished orphans-did she realise how some of the children in India were living an underprivileged life. This sight stirred something inside the teenager of that time, which made her decide to adopt a child-a girl child to be specific.

But her dream of experiencing motherhood without entering into wedlock did not materialise at that time as the authorities rejected her application citing her tender age and single status.

It was only after several years of waiting was she introduced to a child by an organisation in Mumbai that allowed single people to adopt children. That was when she took custody of Renee.

Since then, quite a few women, like Sen, have joined the single mother club.

Many Indian women who decide to adopt a child, in most cases, are either divorced or had kept postponing their marriage dates to focus on their careers. They are educated, do not differentiate between a male and a female child, have enough cash in their bank accounts and are confident about leading their lives and raising children without support of male partners. These women are also not worried about the complexion of the children, family background and health conditions.

For instance, Sen defied the odds when she adopted Renee, who was relatively unhealthy. There are also reports that many of these women have gone for disabled children. For them, adopting a child is not only about experiencing motherhood but contributing to the welfare of the society.

The Indian Council of Social Welfare, an NGO, says at least eight children were adopted between 2007 and May in the Indian state of Maharashtra by unmarried people, mostly women. Similar number of single women has adopted children in other urban centres in India such as New Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and Bangalore.

The number of single mothers may look small but it's a sea change in a country where single mothers were frowned upon and disdainful questions like "where is the father" were often asked when the child is always seen with the mother.

But the latest changes made to the law have brought confidence for many women to become single mums. For instance, the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra has already instructed schools to allow children to use the middle and the last names of single mothers. This new arrangement will come into effect from the new academic year.

Recently, the Indian government also allowed people to adopt a second child of the same gender. This paved the way for Sen to adopt another girl child, Alisa, who was born to an unmarried girl in August last year.

The government is also planning to enact another law on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) soon. Once this bill comes into effect, unmarried couples and single persons, including gay and lesbians from India and abroad, can have children using ART process or surrogate mothers in India.


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