Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day News: Bengaluru 'Father's Day' Event Draws Ire Of Mother's Groups For Advancing 'Patriarchal Agenda'

By Ragini Gowda in Bangalore
Father’s Day in Bengaluru will be a little different this year. Though June 21 is characterised by sentimental greeting-card slogans and fuzzy wishes in most parts of the world, a vociferous debate between father’s rights groups and women’s advocates will give the day a somewhat harder edge in India’s Silicon Valley.

An annual protest by divorced men fighting for access to their children runs into a squall of protest after a press conference features a French diplomat accused of raping his daughter.

The stage for the showdown was set on Friday, when some women’s groups sent out a press release to city media houses urging them to think hard about the manner in which they cover the annual event Father’s Day event organised by father’s rights groups.

“It would be gratifying if media houses could be sensitive, restrained and balanced in their coverage of such events this year,” said the release sent out on Friday to media houses by groups such as All India Progressive Women's Association, the Alternative Law Forum, Aneka, Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union and Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum. “Greater awareness of issues related to gender equality is not only desirable in itself, it would enhance journalistic professionalism.”

The object of their ire is the rally that has been organised for the last six years by Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting, or CRISP, and Save Indian Family Foundation. These groups want shared parenting to be made mandatory and are demanding speedy implementation of the Law Commission's report on providing joint custody of children in cases of breakdown of marriages.

Though this sounds like a progressive demand, women’s groups claim the father’s rights groups have a misogynist and patriarchal agenda.

Kumar Jahgirdar, the president of CRISP, refutes these allegations. He said that his group, which consists mainly of men who are either separated or divorced from their wives, are attempting to make the authorities realise that children need both their parents. “We are asking for shared parenting to be made mandatory in accordance with the Law Commission's draft laws, submitted to the government on May 22 proposing amendments to existing guardianship and custody laws,” he said. “The draft provides for consideration of welfare of children as paramount while deciding custody issues.”

The father’s rights groups began their protests on Saturday at Bengaluru’s Town Hall, where 500 participants waved placards and shouted slogans demanding justice for fathers denied permission to meet their children. On Sunday, members of CRISP are planning to meet Union law minister DV Sadananda Gowda to submit a memorandum seeking the right to visit their children regularly.

However, their protests have become especially contentious this year because women’s groups see them as a thinly disguised attempt to gather support for Pascal Mazurier, a suspended French consular official from the city who in 2012 was charged with sexually abusing his minor daughter. His trial started in February this year and he is out on bail. Rather controversially, Pascal and his father Jack were among those who took part in the press briefing hosted by CRISP on Wednesday to announce this year’s Father’s Day events. At the conference, the two men pushed for their right to meet Pascal’s three children.

CRISP’s president Jahgirdar supported Jack Mauzier’s right to meet his grandchildren. “Jack is not a criminal,” said Jahgirdar.

This open support for Pascal Mauzier, even after doctors confirmed that the minor was sodomised and raped, has irked women activists. “Groups like CRISP support rich and powerful people like Pascal, who is accused of raping his daughter,” said Shakun Mohini, a member of Vimochana, a forum for women's rights. “In spite all the hardships, [his wife] Suja is single-handedly taking care of the children. Every day we come across cases where women in abusive marriages without any financial support are raising their kids.”

Child rights experts note that when discord strikes parents, children are the worst affected. “Sad, but true, children are used by parents to score points,” said Nagasimha G Rao, a senior member of the Child Rights Trust in Bengaluru. “The tug-of-war between parents leaves lifelong scars in the minds of children.”

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