In August, traditional media caught up with a story that surfaced on the Web a month before: During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a Pakistani TV game show, Amaan Ramazan, gave away babies to two childless couples.
The headlines about one of Pakistan’s most popular prime-time shows, dubbed ‘the Islamic Price Is Right‘, made me envision an audience of frustrated NotMoms screaming to win The Baby Prize. Sounds awful, and a definite ratings ploy, but that’s not the entire story.
Babies abandoned on city trash piles – usually girls – are rescued and presented to pre-screened adoptive parents. CBS News reports that Pakistan does not have laws concerning adoption, although the chosen parents have to apply for guardianship in family court.The on-air presentation may be tasteless, but perhaps it’s not as reprehensible as one might assume.
Show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain explained, “This is a beautiful girl who was thrown on pile of garbage by somebody.” He added that “If we didn’t find this baby, a cat or a dog would have eaten it.” He insists the effort honors Islam and encourages others to do the same.
Hussain’s controversial broadcasts were produced in partnership with a charity called the Chhipa Welfare Association. Broadcasts coincide with a public campaign to urge desperate parents to anonymously leave their newborns at one of more than 60 emergency centers run by the Association.
Association head Muhammad Ramzan Chhipa was the one to put babies in the new parents’ arms during the show. His explanation: “We find eight to ten bodies a month in the garbage, mostly girls. We give adoption to those couples only on merit basis. It is not, ‘You answer a question on a show and you get a baby.’ This is false.”
The first “winners”, Riaz-ud-din and his wife, Tanzeem Riaz, had tried to conceive for 14 years. “We didn’t mind doing it on television,” said Riaz-Ud-Din. “I wanted to help break the taboo about adoption. It’s a gift from God. It’s changed our lives,” Tanzem Riaz said.
These couples have applied to adopt a baby and jumped through all the hoops that requires. The weird part is that they accepted custody of the child on TV. Tacky, but is it really that worse than The Bachelorette?
Of course, Hussain has always had critics, and they’re outraged over the baby giveaway. A Pakistani newspaper columnist said, “There’s nothing wrong with handing out abandoned babies to willing parents, but it’s the way he’s doing it, in front of everyone, on live television, You are not doing it for God, you are doing it for ratings.”
As for me, I think he might be doing it for both.