Make mothers first guardians: Panel


NEW DELHI: In a move to empower women, a government panel wants that a mother should be listed as the first guardian for all official purposes instead of a father, arguing that she primarily looks after the children. “Since normally it is the mother who primarily looks after the children, she should be listed as the first guardian ,” the Planning Commission’s Working Group said in its report.

The panel has recommended a review of all laws to make mothers equal guardians of their children. Currently , there is a practice of mentioning the father as the first guardian in all official documents such as school admission forms, birth certificates etc. The group has suggested that all existing regulations and rules ought to be revisited to ensure that the mother’s signature as a guardian is universally accepted in all official records.
The recommendation is part of a slew of measures suggested by the group to make laws more gender sensitive . It also asked the government to revisit laws related to maintenance and guardianship to ensure separated women get adequate maintenance and custody rights over their children.

The suggestion, if accepted , would ensure women’s first right over a child whether she is married or divorced, said a member of the group.

“Once all laws are relooked in light of the recommendations , the women will not be forced by any government or private agencies such as schools or passport offices to mandatorily disclose husbands’ names,” she said. “The existing laws on the issue are archaic and were conceptualized with a patriarchal mindset ,” said another member.

The group, headed by the women and child development secretary, wants to relook at all the laws that do not treat guardianship rights of mother on a par with those of the father. The panel, which argued that family law reform has been neglected, said the laws need to recognize a woman as an equal partner with her husband and her contribution to the household or the productive nature of work that fairer sex do.

The path-breaking recommendations would ensure that mothers have an equal right in care-giving as well as in crucial decision-making processes, financial or otherwise , affecting children’s lives. The law commission in its 83rd report submitted in 1980 had suggested amendment in guardianship laws.

” The Guardians and Wards Act1890 was enacted 90 years ago. At the time, women had scarcely any rights: for them there was only social and legal degradation , material insecurity and other manifestations of dominance and false superiority of men,” it had said.

The commission also recommended to amend Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, to allow the mother the custody of a minor till it is 12 years old. “It is necessary to allow the mother the custody of a child till it attains the age of 12 to prevent the father from using the child as a pawn for securing complete submission of his wife,” the report added.

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