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‘Insensitive’: Rakhi gifts with adoption jokes trigger protests


Written by Surbhi Gupta
| New Delhi |

Published: August 3, 2020 6:02:44 am

Demanding an immediate withdrawal and boycott of such products, the community has put out a statement with over 200 signatories. (Representational)
Cups, cushions, t-shirts and rakhis designed for Raksha Bandhan with prints such as “You’re adopted, but we still love you”, “Tu toh adopted hai”, “Tujhe toh dustbin se uthaya hai” and “Real one & adopted one” have outraged the community of adoptive parents and adoption agencies.

Many of them have shared on social media screenshots of these products available on a major e-commerce platform and said such products perpetrate the stigma about adoption.

“‘You are adopted’ is a widely used line among siblings worldwide! It is a fad to tease your sibling and enjoy the irritation on his or her face! This mug celebrated the tease bond between them! Gift it to your brother or sister as it makes a perfect Rakhi gift which is something different,” read a mug’s product description on the platform.

Demanding an immediate withdrawal and boycott of such products, the community has put out a statement with over 200 signatories. “We strongly condemn the rakhi products being marketed which treat adoption as a joke. Such products are highly offensive and have outraged the adoptive community because of the insensitivity they display and the potential they have to damage and hurt adopted children,” the statement says.

Objecting to the sale of such items, activist Shabnam Hashmi told The Indian Express, “An adopted child goes through a very difficult journey and the abandonment at birth or within the first year leaves a very deep scar. They are, as it is, constantly looking for their roots and dealing with that question of ‘why I was abandoned’ and this is like rubbing it in. Even if these products are meant for biological siblings, making fun of adoption and being so insensitive towards it, it is something to be really appalled at.”

Her daughter Seher Hashmi Raza, 24-year-old artist and stylist, took to Facebook to share her thoughts and journey on being adopted.

“There is actually a mug that says you’re adopted, but we love you — that’s extremely offensive, because are you saying that adoptive children are not loved or should not be loved?” said Mumbai-based textile designer Shirali Radhakrishna Tyabji, 33.

Avinash Kumar, director of Families of Joy, a NGO that works in the space of adoption, told The Indian Express that e-commerce platforms have huge visibility and therefore, they need to be highly sensitive on what products they market. “Apart from hurting sentiments of the adoption fraternity, the products reinforce the stereotypes and stigmas among non-adoptive families,” he said.

He said he has written an open letter to the e-commerce platform, expressing shock at the sale of products “mocking adoption”. “Accepting, endorsing and selling such products is not only discriminatory and in poor taste, it also sets a grossly inappropriate introduction to adoption for the uninitiated ones,” he wrote. He has raised similar issues in an open letter to Central Adoption Resource Authority, an autonomous body under Ministry of Women and Child Development.

“Even if children tease each other, nobody should use it to sell a product. You don’t tell someone that you’re fat or physically challenged, people take offence at it,” said Vinita Bhargava, Associate Professor at Lady Irwin College’s Human Development and Childhood Studies department. An adoptive parent, she runs the support group Alternative Parenting Network Association.

Sakshee Bindal of The Gift Maker, one of the companies whose products are under scrutiny, told The Indian Express, “We just wanted to play on the joke, the intention was never to hurt anyone. If people have found it hurtful, I will take them down from the website right now.”

Bhargava said while raising awareness and boycotting are the first steps, parents and activists also want government agencies to take notice and intervene.

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