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Why adoption is not an option in India: the visibility of infertility, the secrecy of donor insemination, and other cultural complexities


  • Bharadwaj, Aditya


Child adoption in the face of reproduction gone awry continues to remain an under researched aspect of contemporary Indian reality. This paper seeks to unpack some of the critical cultural issues underscoring the deep-seated reluctance towards adoption. Drawing on a larger multi-sited research project examining the experience of infertility and assisted conception in India, the paper sheds light on the state of current adoption practices in India. Thus, when faced with infertility, couples in this research emerged as favouring secret gamete donation as a means of bypassing infertility rather than the option of adoption. Invoking the concept of systematic misrecognition, the paper situates the modalities of salvaging infertility, either through medically assisted conception or adoption, as structuring infertile people's quest for children. The paper relates the perceived stigma associated with infertility treatment and adoption with the inclusion of a "third party" that fractures the culturally conceptualized boundaries of family as inextricably tied to the conjugal bond. It is therefore argued that secrecy is born out of a need to obfuscate a "public and visible" violation of a culturally priced ideal that views an intimate connection between the "married body" and the progeny. Adoption continues to remain an undesirable option because the links between an adopted child and the social parent become a public, vocal, and visible admission of infertility that cannot be subsumed, like donated gamete conception, under a conspiracy of silence.

Suggested Citation

  • Bharadwaj, Aditya, 2003. "Why adoption is not an option in India: the visibility of infertility, the secrecy of donor insemination, and other cultural complexities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(9), pages 1867-1880, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:9:p:1867-1880

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    Cited by:

    1. Hampshire, Katherine R. & Blell, Mwenza T. & Simpson, Bob, 2012. "‘Everybody is moving on’: Infertility, relationality and the aesthetics of family among British-Pakistani Muslims," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(7), pages 1045-1052.
    2. Donkor, Ernestina S. & Sandall, Jane, 2007. "The impact of perceived stigma and mediating social factors on infertility-related stress among women seeking infertility treatment in Southern Ghana," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(8), pages 1683-1694, October.
    3. Keera Allendorf, 2015. "Fertility Decline, Gender Composition of Families, and Expectations of Old Age Support," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(4), pages 511-539, August.
    4. Forber-Pratt, Ian Anand & Loo, Stephanie & Price, Sara & Acharya, Jyoti, 2013. "Foster care in India: An exploratory survey of the community perceptions and prospects for implementation of foster care in a developing nation: A study in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 694-706.


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