With awareness comes education, and with education, comes the power to stop the mental and emotional abuse of children.
In India, each year scores of children are subject to parental alienation being caught in the war between their parents: the alienating parent using the child as a tool for seeking vengeance and satisfying ego at the expense of separating the child from the other parent and making them alienated.
As such the child losses the warmth of love and affection of the alienated parent and he is made to turn hostile towards the alienated parent.
Carl Jung observed, “ In every adult, there lurks a child – an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed and calls for unceasing care, attention and education.”
The more intensively the family has stamped its character upon the child, the more it will tend to feel and see its earlier miniature world again in the bigger world of adult life- this is where the ill effect of parental alienation plays its role in destroying a childhood.
In West Bengal, there are scores of parents who at this time of the COVID-19 lockdown are facing serious issues with regards to connecting with their children who do not stay with them due to marital disputes and custody cases and other issues.
These parents, as well as children, are not been able to get connected due to non-cooperation by the other parent and cant establish contact through phone or video conference or skype etc. As such the alienated parents are anxious to know about the whereabouts of their children and their present physical and mental state at the time of the corona COVID-19 crisis. Those parents who have litigations are also not been able to approach the courts as the courts are non-functional now, As such, it is an appeal to all the concerned govt administration like the Child Welfare Committees, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the police authorities to kindly cooperate with these parents if they approach for help in gathering information about their children. It is also an appeal to the judiciary to take cognizance of this problem and assist in issuing suitable directions to the different stakeholders in the matter.
The Apex court of the country has recognised this impediment and the innocent predicament in which children of estranged parents are subjected to and how their future and the innocence of childhood are stolen by warring couples battling on the courts and outside . Hon’ble Justice Sikri for the first time gave a legal acknowledgement to this phenomenon while adjudicating on a case in 2017 . Subsequently the Apex court in number of judgements have opined and given their observations that a child needs the love and affection of both parents. Recently the Telangana High Court has observed that the parents are not mere guests of children thereby advocating adequacy of access and parenting time for both custodial and non -custodial parents. Thus the judiciary should be sensitized enough to pass reasonable orders of access and interim custody and in suitable cases encourage shared parenting rights for the sake of these hapless children.
Ayushman is an initiative with an aim to propagate, sensitise and uphold the inherent and assigned rights of all children within the Union of India. The initiative is a Civil Society movement and the organisation is structured as a not for profit, non-governmental initiative that works with various governmental and statutory bodies at the local as well as the national levels. Our commitment to upholding Child Rights bears allegiance to all that is enshrined within the Constitution of India. In addition, we ascribe to the rights enumerated in the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20th November 1989 and was entered into force on 2nd September 1990, in accordance with Article 49 and the same being subsequently acceded to and ratified by India on 11th December 1992.
A particular focus of our initiative is towards ensuring the welfare in preserving the aforementioned rights of our children caught in parental conflict and matrimonial disputes. It is of utmost priority of ours that such unfortunate children are not deprived of their inherent and assigned rights, the violations of which inadvertently inflict various permanent and long term damages, including but not limited to delinquent behaviour and mental health issues arising out of parental alienation syndrome (PAS),
The notion of Child Rights is an emerging concept in India and a lot of effort still needs to be put in this direction. Unfortunately, the collective consciousness of our nation has yet to take cognition of the fact that the quintessential extended Indian family that used to provide refuge and comfort to our children has been disintegrating over the last four to five decades. The familial structure prevalent during the erstwhile era has been replaced by a new and emerging ethos. Incidence of disintegration of marriages, childbirth outside the institution of marriage, single parenthood by choice, etc., are ever increasing and old and archaic notions of child welfare borne out of erstwhile familial ethos needs to be revisited and rationalised.
Our effort, at Ayushman, is geared towards preparing ourselves for the new and emerging reality. We propose that certain aspects of our perceptions with respect to our children need to be fundamentally altered by bringing the child to the centre of our focus as opposed to treating our children as appendages of parents or as derivatives of a family. This would involve a paradigmatic shift in some of our assumptions and perceptions. The entire rationale that is implicit in our State’s response, through its executive, legislative or judicial wings, to children caught amidst parental conflict needs a rethink. As an illustration of some of the fallacies involved in our collective imagination, please allow me to problematize the word “welfare” as used in respect of a child. It is a well settled principle of law that the welfare of the child is of paramount importance in matters related to child custody, the operating word being welfare. Yet, the perception of welfare as has been observed in various court rulings is inconsistent, prejudiced and perceptions are based out of individual life experiences and a priori notions of welfare. We, at Ayushman, propose that we should rationalise the term welfare by incorporating a simple proposition – rights equal welfare. Upholding a child’s right ensures the child’s welfare.
In light of the aforesaid, we, at Ayushman, are already liaising with the executive and quasi-judicial bodies like the Child Welfare Committees, the National Committee for Protection of Child Rights, the State Committees for Protection of Child Rights, various departments under the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Law and Justice, etc.. In addition, we regularly conduct workshops and seminars on these issues with resource persons with expertise across our chapters currently operating in four metropolitan cities along with our members spread across the country of ours. Now, we would like to render our assistance to the Judiciary, in each and every manner possible, in facilitating the recognition and sensitisation with respect to Child Rights and its implications in judicial proceedings related to child matters.
The following are some of the areas where we can offer assistance to our judiciary:
- Implementation of the “Child Access and Custody Guidelines along With Parenting Plan”.
- Incorporation and implementation of the Law Commission Report No. 257.
- Child Rights sensitisation programmes.
- Mental health sensitisation programmes.
- Gender neutrality in the interpretation and application of existent laws.
We trust and hope that we can complement each other in our strife to ensure an environment that is free from mental abuse and free of the perils and evils of parental alienation so as to ensure equitable love, care and affection from both parents for these children.