Preying on kids

Preying on kids

Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya’s nightmare of having their children taken away from them and put under foster care for the past eight months by Norwegian authorities appears to be nearing an end.

Barnevarn, Norway’s child welfare service has agreed to hand over the children to their uncle in Kolkata. But it is still too early for the Bhattacharyas to heave a sigh of relief as it will take around two months for Norway to hand over the children to their uncle, by when their visas will have expired. Their uncertainty and anxiety will thus remain. Worryingly for other Indians living in Norway, indeed in the west, the issues underlying the Bhattacharyas’ dreadful experience remain unresolved.

Barnevarn’s action against the Bhattacharyas has its roots in cultural insensitivity and misunderstanding of the practices of others. It stems from a feeling of superiority that western ways of rearing children are the best and that other ways are abusive and incorrect. Barnevarn cracked down on the Bhattacharyas on the grounds that the children did not have the right toys, the older child did not have a room to himself and was sleeping with the father and that the children were being hand-fed. Does the organisation know that the parents were rearing the child as is the custom in Indian families? None of these can be considered abusive. Yet the children were taken away. Not only did Norwegian authorities display cultural insensitivity but also, they overstepped the line.
Norwegian analysts have drawn attention to the business of so-called child protection. This is a million dollar industry apparently that involves child welfare services forking out huge amounts of money and perks to psychologists, foster parents, etc.

The industry needs children; hence the aggressive manner in which families are attacked and torn apart. In the name of protecting children, Barnevarn is preying on children. It is not just foreign children who suffer its abuse. Apparently poor Norwegian families are similarly preyed upon. This exploitation and abuse of children must be investigated and ended. If the Norwegian state believes it has superior skills in child rearing, it should share these skills through counselling for parents. While children must be protected from all kinds of abuse including that from parents, one needs to be careful in defining abuse. Tearing families apart is not the way to provide a secure childhood. 

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