Adoption, it appears, is for TV ratings

Published: August 4, 2013

How can a baby be handed out of TV? Have we lost all sensibility? PHOTO: AFP

It takes a long time to come to terms with some diagnoses, and the fact that you may be unable to conceive a child is one of them, but there is a solution: adoption.

It offers couples the opportunity to raise and love a child, and give the child a loving home and family that it did not possess. And yet, even though adoption generally turns out to be a mutually happy solution, it is a serious process, and an emotional one; the journey 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 agonised soul searching of an adopting couple.

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

It is often an outsider who is aware of the adoption, and who has no qualms about crushing everyone else in the stampede to be the ‘first to tell,’ who 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? Above all, what should he be told so that his trauma is minimised?

Family and friends of adoptive parents are taken into confidence selectively, only so that the circumstances of adoption are not insensitively revealed to the child. Revealing such information is done carefully, after deliberation and at the right time.

The last place in which to do this is (as happened to someone I knew) at the time of marriage when the bride saw her natural parents’ names on the nikkah nama; or on public television, as is being done these days.

“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?

Where is Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) when you need it?

PEMRA, for once rightly, put its foot down and took a commercial advertising Josh contraceptives off air, although its exact motives are unclear, whether they were against contraception, or the distasteful angle from which the product was advertised. Either way, who will make the manufacturers of Josh contraceptives apologise for this commercial? And exactly who is going to stop such irresponsible personalities, who in their ruthless stampede for ratings hand out children for adoption on national television?

Sometimes, when authorities fail, the public can achieve the desired results, such as when the British magazine OK printed what it called the ‘Duchess Diet’, and readers threatened to boycott the magazine for its tasteless discussion of the duchess of Cornwall’s weight, right after she had been delivered of a baby. The magazine was forced to apologise.

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 to be more sensitive towards the problems inherent in the process, to protect adopted children in this society.


Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.