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Mother Teresa Charity Stops Adoptions Over India’s New Laws

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Thirty orphanages that are part of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charities system have decided to shut down adoptions rather than comply with an Indian law that eases the adoption process for divorced and single people.

“We have already shut our adoption services, because we believe our children may not receive real love,” Sister Amala of Nirmala Shishu Bhawan, a New Delhi orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, said. “We do not wish to give children to single parents or divorced people. It is not a religious rule but a human rule. Children need both parents, male and female. That is only natural, isn’t it?”

The Indian law seeks to significantly change the Indian adoption process. Plagued by abysmal adoption rates for its estimated 16 to 30 million orphaned children—the country’s Women and Child Development Ministry suggests that only about 2,500 orphans were adopted in 2014—along with bureaucratic obstacles and child trafficking, the country’s orphan population has swelled.

The Indian government has responded by requiring that orphanages submit records to a central database, where prospective parents are matched with children, the Washington Post reports.

This opens up adoption to the masses, something that does not sit well with the Missionaries of Charity, said Maneka Gandhi, head of the Women and Child Development Ministry.

“They have cited ideological issues with our adoption guidelines, related to giving a child up for adoption to single, unwed mothers,” Gandhi said at the event. “They do not want to come under a uniform secular agenda.”

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Write to Tanya Basu at tanya.basu@time.com