Men’s groups fighting forfathers cut off from kids

Men’s groups fighting forfathers cut off from kids

Divorced men have had to approach the courts to get virtual child-visit rights since the pandemic broke out. Men’s Day is observed on November 19

Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting, founded by Kumar Jahgirdar (third from right), has been campaigning for joint custody.

The pandemic has posed special challenges in child custody cases, and men’s rights groups say they are working towards securing a fair deal for both parents.

In April, a group called Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) filed a public-interest petition, requesting virtual (WhatsApp, Skype) visits so that children were not completely cut off from their fathers.

“It was partially successful, and the judges said that if one has a court order, such visits were possible and if the wife didn’t agree, the husband could approach a family court and file for contempt,” Anil Kumar, founder, says.

Abuse of child custodial privileges and false dowry and rape cases are concerns men’s rights organisations in India are campaigning against. 

Save Indian Family Foundation describes itself as an NGO that provides counselling for men in matrimonial disputes. 

Some victories

India has two domestic violence laws, which should be ideally merged, says Anil Kumar.

“Till a while ago, Section 498(A) of the IPC used to have mandatory arrest provisions and an entire family would be imprisoned without investigation. It wasn’t easy to make out what was fake and what was real,” he says. 

SIFF campaigned to stop the mandatory arrest provisions in 2004.

“In a few years, some arrests were stopped. People started getting bail in 2007 and the arrest of the husband’s parents started reducing. By 2010, the government made an amendment to the CrPC, as a result of which arrest was replaced with a notice of appearance. By 2015, almost 90 per cent of the arrests had stopped,” he says.

SIFF counsels men who face domestic violence or live in fear of false cases. “In India, the police are not a friendly institution. Men are in a bad state, as they fear harassment from family,” he says. 

Shared parenting 

In 98 per cent of divorces, the mother is granted custody of the children by default.

Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting, founded by Kumar Jahgirdar, is trying to change that.

“There is enough research to show that when a father figure is missing, children often end up in teenage pregnancy, turn to drugs, run away from home or discontinue studies,” he says. 

In other countries, joint custody is the norm, where a child gets the best of both parents and grandparents.

In recommendations before the Law Commission of India, Kumar suggested that the non-custodial parent could have the children over on weekends and for 50 per cent of vacations, which would lead to quality family time. 

“Most courts agree. There was a recent judgement in the Karnataka High Court on the same lines,” says Kumar.

There are mothers who want to cut off ties between their former partners and the children, which leads to parental alienation.

“This can happen due to vengeance. Parental alienation syndrome should be considered a punishable offence.”

In addition, most dowry complaints are fake, and are meant to harass the man’s family, extract money and  prevent child custody, he says. “It takes at least seven years for such a trial, meantime the child could grow up without knowing the father, and want to stay on with his mother in the future,” says Kumar. 

‘Neutral laws’

Purush Adhikar Sangh is looking at “helping men become ideal role models”. Santosh Patil, co-founder and volunteer, says it is important to have gender-neutral laws.

The group makes sure men filing complaints “do not go by the eye-for-an-eye philosophy”. 

Men are guided about equal parenting, and how they can spend more time with their children.

“Most companies offer work from home options and we ask single fathers to use it to be involved in their child’s lives,” he says.

Since rape accusations are common, the group advises to men “to not get involved with women unless in a marriage”.

“We tell men not to indulge even in a consensual physical relationships, as later, if the women regrets it, it can be twisted and treated as rape,” says Santosh.

Purush Adhikar Sangh is also demanding registration of marriages to be visible on a public registry.

“When the Aadhaar card number is punched in, the platform should show the marital status of an individual. This will help reduce fraud and multiple marriages,” he says. 

‘Celebrate Men’s Day’

The sacrifices of a father should be celebrated, says a men’s rights activist.  “Men’s Day should also be observed like Women’s Day. Everyone should appreciate and greet men,” he says. 

They are here:

Save Indian Family Foundation: 92789 78978

Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting: 98452 64488

Purush Adhikar Sangh: 98457 46684