What it says about India when people compliment us for adopting daughters

“It’s amazing. And that too, you adopted a girl!” said one of our older relatives with a genuine look of appreciation and pride, as he complimented us for our daughter’s adoption. I was humbled and happy, and I acknowledged his comment with a polite thank you. The pattern repeated with other relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Everyone congratulated us. Some specially complimented us for adopting daughters. I realized how fortunate we are to be surrounded by sensible and good people. For a moment, it’s almost like living in the “new” India, where gender equality exists not just in laws but in people’s minds.

But then why would anyone deserve virtual pats on the back specifically for adopting daughters? During my time outside India, I knew some western families who had adopted children and it wasn’t about adopting a boy or girl; it was just about adopting a child. Not so for Indian children. In our country, whether the child is a boy or girl matters. People wouldn’t need to compliment my husband and I for specifically adopting daughters if gender was not an issue. The compliments are an acknowledgement of the painful fact that wanting daughters is not the norm in India. An acknowledgement that life’s odds are stacked against India’s female children. The happiness to see something done right for girls is based on the knowledge that our society has done so many things extremely wrong for our girls.

A female social worker relayed to us the story of a prospective father, who had commented, “when a son finds out he’s adopted, he will love us less. When a daughter finds out she’s adopted, she will love us more.” I dislike this story for misrepresenting adopted sons. I dislike it more because it says that in our society, a girl would just be thankful that someone wanted her, that she has no right to be angry or upset or to sort out her own feelings. It would be a better India for all girls when we reach a point where adopting daughters simply implies that daughters are brilliant and awesome, and people say “It’s amazing. You are so lucky it’s a girl!”