KATHMANDU, May 12: Nepali parents claim they are no longer as rigid when it comes to adopted children´s gender and caste as their parents used to be. However records at the Nepal Children´s Organization (NCO) show gender and caste are still major issues, at least for childless Nepali parents who look to adopt.
Ninety-nine percent of Nepali foster parents adopt boys and are also very particular the child does not belong to a ´lesser´ caste, according to Rajendra Niraula, director at NCO.
On the contrary, most foreign parents looking to adopt Nepali children favor girls, according to Toya Adhikari, under-secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
"As long as there is a choice, we have seen that most foreigners want to adopt girls, and caste is never an issue with them," said Adhikari.
During the current fiscal year, Nepali parents adopted 11 children from the NCO, all of which were boys, according to Niraula.
The NCO has records of 60 children adopted by Nepali parents over the years in places ranging from Kathmandu to Rupandehi and Biratnagar to Bhaktapur. "Almost all of the children were male," said Niraula. "And in most cases, the parents made sure the children belonged to a caste comparable to their own."
But Nepali parents do not go for adoption in case they have one child, even if that is a daughter.
"We have not witnessed a single case in which a Nepali couple that has a daughter came to adopt a male child," said Niraula. "All Nepalese parents looking to adopt a child are childless."
In the case of foreigners, the bias in favor of a girl is pervasive unless the couple in question is barred by the rules of its land of residence to adopt a girl due to reasons such as already having a daughter, said Adhikari of the Ministry.
"Since 2000, some 2,200 Nepali children were adopted by foreign parents. A clear majority of them were girls," said Adhikari.
Adoption of Nepali children by foreign parents was halted in early 2007 after the media brought to light gross irregularities in the country´s adoption industry following the adoption of a boy, Kabi Raj Shahi, then eight, by a Spanish couple despite the fact Shahi´s parents were still alive and he therefore did not qualify as an orphan.
In August the same year, the government rescued 22 children, 17 of them Humli, from an orphanage in Kathmandu and reunited them with their biological parents. Following a public outcry, the government finalized new policies earlier this year and gave the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare complete authority to decide whether a Nepali child can be adopted by foreign parents and whether the parents themselves qualify for adoption.
To prevent foul play for monetary gains, the government has also set a flat fee for adoption. Henceforth, to adopt a Nepali child, foreign parents have to pay a fee of US $3,000 to the government and US$5,000 to the orphanage.
The Ministry has so far received more than 200 applications from foreign parents seeking to adopt Nepalese children. The applications are still being processed. According to the NCO, Nepali children have been adopted over the years by parents in France, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.