‘Harassed fathers’ demand gender neutral family law

Bangalore: The Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), a Bangalore-based NGO fighting for shared parenting in case of divorce or separation, Sunday demanded reforms in family laws — to make them gender neutral.

“The anti-father mindset unfortunately persists in our society. In divorce and separation cases, one of the parents, out of revenge, deprives the child of the love, affection and care of the other parent,” CRISP founder and president Kumar V. Jahgirdar told IANS.

He said people like him, who were seeking parenting rights and joint custody of the child, find they have no relevance on International Father’s Day, which falls Sunday.

“This (single parenting) is one of the worst forms of child abuse,” he said.

CRISP, with more than 2,500 members across the country, said shared parenting and joint custody of children should be implemented as a rule in divorce or separation cases.

“We demand a separate union ministry for children and we demand that the new ministry be de-linked from the present women and child development ministry. Since both have different objectives and child rights are being ignored when clubbed with the women development ministry, such a mechanism would work better,” he said.

The NGO also urged the Supreme Court to define what constitutes the welfare of a child and lay down guidelines to avoid the confusion that prevails in family courts.

Delhi-based child counsellor Ekta Singh, also a CRISP member, said there is need for making it mandatory that documents pertaining to child welfare like passport and school admission forms should always have the consent of both biological parents, in case of separation.

Another member, Manpreet Bhandari, a software engineer in Bangalore, involved in a divorce case, said the custodian parent, who intentionally and consistently violates the court orders of child visitation, should be declared unfit to be a guardian.

“The custody should be give to the other parent,” he said.

CRISP, with its regional chapters in Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow, has been fighting to set up special courts to deal with child custody cases.

According to the data available with CRISP, more than 20,000 divorce cases are pending in family courts in Bangalore alone. The figure was collected from family courts.

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