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Shared parenting: A healing ointment for broken homes PDF Print E-mail
(2 Votes)
Written by Outlook India (PTI)   

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Thirty-five year old Tarun slips his hands into the pockets of his coat and gently caresses a pink furry teddy bear... He has been carrying the toy along for quite some time now in the hope of presenting it to his little daughter if he is lucky to bump into her by chance or in one of the `scheduled' meetings.

Tarun is one of the scores of fathers who are fighting for the joint custody of their children. Tears well up in his eyes everytime he glances at the toy or the picture of his pretty daughter smiling from the frames of a photograph, one whom he has been separated from following a divorce.

"The anguish of a father cannot be expressed and it is no less than a woman going through a similar separation", says Kumar Jagirdar, one of the co-founders of Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), launched recently to focus on the rights of a child to remain connected with both parents, irrespective of a divorce or separation.

CRISP launched on the Father's Day, June 14 this year, was founded following a growing demand by separated parents, especially fathers, wanting to obtain custody of their child and hoping that the legal system was sensitised to the fact that fathers were equally capable of looking after a child.

"Indian legal system is still based on patriarchal mindset which considers fathers as not capable of nurturing children. When women can multitask it is baseless to say that men cannot take care of children", says Anil Kumar, member of the NGO.

The earlier policy makers, largely belonged to a generation of men who could neither identify themselves with child care nor emotionally connect to the child and assumed a disciplinarian role. The approach was patriarchal", says Anil.

The same patriarchal approach appears to be reflected in the Indian legal system that favours women when it comes to handing over the custody of children, says Anil.

"However, today's fathers are different. They are involved in child rearing. With both parents working, a father's role cannot be understimated", he said. However, when marital problems crop up leading to separation, it is the women who assume an important role in child rearing, says Jagirdar.

The "one-hour visiting or weekly visiting" arrangements where a father meets their children in a supervised surrounding, hardly is conducive to nurturing that parent-child bond, opines Jagirdar. "There should be a change in the model to enable a more flexible model where each parent can spend longer hours with the child or enough to build and nurture those bonds," says Jagirdar.

CRISP plans to launch a series of awareness campaign to sensitise the legal system on the issue of shared parenting initiative as well as file a Public Interest Litigation, in three months, seeking direction from the court on the issue, says Pandurang Jatti, member of the NGO.

It also plans to work in collaboration with government and various organisation dealing with child right to highlight the need for shared parenting in the interest of the child who is otherwise torn between either parents or is under pressure from one to forget the other or is deprived of affection from the non-custodial parent, says Uma Challa, another member.

"Our aims and objectives are based on research findings worldwide that indicate that children do best when both parents are actively involved in their lives, even after separation or divorce. We believe conflict can be reduced and mental and emotional health of children improve when divorcing parents can be assured of equal and meaningful contact with their children", says Uma.

In the US, statistics indicate that children from fatherless homes are five times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away from home, 20 times more likely to have behavioural disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical susbtance, 20 time s more likely to end up in prison, says CRISP leaflet.

CRISP seeks to advocate that joint custody is the best outcome for children whose parents are separated. Child needs support of both biological parents and both should be responsible for its emotional and psychological well being.

Single mothers should be given mandatory counselling to increase involvement of biological father in a child's life and existing visitation schedule should be increased to enhance the role of the non custodian parents. "How can a child know what the other parent is like when he or she never interacts with him or her," says Jagirdar.

Many a times one of the parents indulges in interparental child abduction where one takes the child to another country without the permsission of other. The said action without the permission of court is considered a criminal act under international laws including Hague Convention, says Jagirdar.

According to Uma, CRISP is dedicated to putting efforts to creation of a judicial, legislative system and public awareness that promotes equal rights for all parties affected by divorce and break up of a family. It also aims at providing legal advise to those seeking it on the issue of shared parenting and child rights, separation and divorce cases.

CRISP demands that as part of the shared parenting concept, which is popular in the West, efforts be made in India too to ensure meaningful and balanced particiaption of both parents in the lives of children in case of separation.

"We do not want India to see a repeat of what is happening in the US now following divorce and separation cases", says Jagirdar. "We must learn our lessons now", he said.

Parent alienation occurs when one parent disallows the other from communicating with the child out of personal vendetta. The dominant parent brainwashes the child against the other, assuring the child that it was okay to ignore the non-custodian parent, resulting in mental distress to the child and similar distress and trauma to the deprived parent.

"We advocate that both parents be put through counselling to ensure that their ego hassles and marital problems do not affect the wellbeing of the child. We want to sensitise the law enforcement agencies to treat family as an important but fragile institution with kids glove", says Uma.

At the heart of CRISP is a basic philosophy, says Jagirdar. "A man or women can choose or change his spouse, a child unfortunately, cannot choose or change his set parents, he is born to" and shared parenting is all about understanding that a child needs the love, nurturing, guidance and support of both parents, in whose care he is placed by nature.


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