No provision for child adoption in Islam, statute: 50,000 quake children vulnerable to abuse
By Mohammad Kamran
ISLAMABAD: Legal and social experts have stressed the need to galvanise individual and national efforts to prevent orphaned or lost children being handed over to adults that are not blood relations. Besides ongoing relief efforts and the reconstruction of affected areas, the government has been urged to make the protection of orphans and children a priority.
According to a rough estimate, some 50,000 children have either been orphaned or separated from their parents by the earthquake. So far no programme exists to ensure the psychological rehabilitation or care of these children.
The future of these children has legal, social and moral implications. Although the government has recently banned the adoption of orphans to prevent the risk of child abuse, the illegal transfer of minors into ‘unsafe hands’ is said to have continued. Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, while defining the current adoption policy said, “A narrow view of the adoption policy is that Islam prohibits adoption. This is derived from Quranic injunction regarding ‘Zayd’ who was companion of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). The Quran prohibits adoption so that no illegal heir can inherit the orphan’s property.” Nonetheless, he said, the adoption was perfectly legal as the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) himself was adopted by his grandfather and then, on the demise of his grandfather, by his uncle.
Ahsan said the government was right to impose a ban on the adoption of orphans and unattended children. “This is right because some parents may join yet claim their children in the days to come,” he said. He suggested the formation of a board to examine the applications for adoption. Naheeda Mahboob Illahi, the deputy attorney general, told Daily Times that the ‘Mohammadan Law’ and the ‘Guardians and Wards Act 1819’ provided for the welfare of orphans. “Adoption is not an option in Islam, but a guardian is appointed to look after the welfare of parentless children.”
Concerning the thousands of children orphaned in the recent crisis, she said the government’s initiative to rehabilitate the children and the ban on adoption was in accordance with the tenets of Islam and the state law. She said the family courts were ready to settle any cases of disputed guardianship.
Jamila Aslam, a lawyer, said there was no concept of child adoption in Islam or in Pakistan’s statute. “The government must formulate an immediate policy for the rehabilitation of homeless orphans. There is desperate need to save these children from further trauma and to give them a family environment,” she said. Orphans, particularly the girls, are very much vulnerable to abuse, she said, adding, “There is an instant fear that these children may be handed to human smugglers and the young girls would simply be adding to the population of different red light areas in our country.”
She said according to the Guardian Act of 1819, a guardian could be appointed to look after an orphan child. She also said the government should not hand over the minor children to claimant parents without conducting a DNA test. “There are many fake claimants who are trying to gain custody of children for their vested interests. Guardianship should not be accepted without a DNA test.” Jamila stressed the need for special temporary courts to settle the disputes of guardianship. Anees Jillani, coordinator for the Society for the Protection of Rights of Child (SPARC), said, “So far the government has not been able to maintain a database of orphan or unattended children. This should have been done on an emergent basis as any hurdle in the compilation of data will lead to the exploitation of innocent children.”