November 22, 2006

No more automatic loss of child custody for a divorced woman who remarries.

A new ruling from the Indian Supreme Court. Decisions will now be made on a case-by-case basis.

16 comments:

Goesh said...

- it seems they quit throwing widows on cremation pyres some years back too.

Simon said...

Goesh said...
"it seems they quit throwing widows on cremation pyres some years back too."

They didn't quit it, to the extent that term connotes voluntary cessation; they were forced - on threat of being tried for murder - to cease the practice by the British Raj. This was back before we went all squishy and "multiculturalist," when "tolerence" did not precluding asking what was to be tolerated, and when it was functionally distinguishable from acquiescence to femicide.

Paul Zrimsek said...

It's naught but a hollow mockery so long as divorcees are excluded from the creamy layer!

Goesh said...

The caste system was abolished some years ago too - hope floats

MD said...

Oh, Simon. What brought that muddle on? The Indians are just raring to bring suttee back, I'm sure. As sure as I am the British want to bring back Dickensian child labor....and no, don't misunderstand me. I'm not making a po-mo 'all cultures are equal' point. I'm saying this is the year 2006, for heaven's sake, and the difficult, maddening, and ultimately rewarding business of moving forward the Indian democracy continues and this is a victory in that process.

goesh - you trouble maker you!

Slim999 said...

And yet, alas, in the United States it remains automatic that a father must fight for custody of his daughter when a married woman divorces.

What a backward country we live in.

Balfegor said...

And yet, alas, in the United States it remains automatic that a father must fight for custody of his daughter when a married woman divorces.

What a backward country we live in.

I'm not disputing this, as I often get the same feel about the US, although probably for rather different reasons . . . but the US-India difference here, I suspect, is a difference both in views about the role of children in family life and the ability of the father to care for the child.

Here in the US, concerns about family continuity are highly attenuated, if they exist at all, and are not well supported by the law -- thus, while, under a patrilineal system, the father's children are the family's hope of the future, the usual outcome of divorce is to remove the childen from the family, and put them over in the mother's old family. I don't know whether this is the case in India, but India seems fairly patriarchal to me, so my guess is that they're pretty normal as far as their attitude to children goes.

In the US, another assumption is that the mother is more closely involved in home life and child-rearing, and that the father is out of the house earning money. And that the nuclear family live out and alone, cut off from the rest of the wider family. Thus, in a divorce situation, the mother is the one best equipped to continue providing home care, and the father is left out in the cold. I don't think this assumption would hold in India, or in most other countries, really, where extended families often live either together, in a single family complex, or in close proximity to each other. In such a situation, the children can be kept in the family reasonably easily, as there are plenty of other kinfolk around taking care of the home -- sisters, aunts, grandparents, etc.

At least, these would be my guesses. I'm not Indian, and don't have much visibility into the family practices of the various Indian cultures.

Incidentally, this makes me think of Junichirou Koizumi's situation -- he married and divorced, and two of his sons were raised by members of his family. He has never met his youngest son, who was not yet born at the time of the divorce; his ex-wife got custody, understandably enough.

Balfegor said...

Also, for the suttee thing, no one should go on about the British forcing the Indians to stop suttee without quoting Charles Napier:

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

Simon said...

MD - I'm not quite sure what you're saying. I'm not suggesting that they're trying to bring it back. My point was that it used to be the case that when we came across cultural crimes against women of quite obscene violence, western civilization didn't bleat about multicultural toleration, we were perfectly willing to call it what is was and stamp it out. To be sure, I doubt that it was put a stop to on feminist motives, but rather -- as we were talking about yesterday, in connection to polygamy -- it was probably done because it offended the moral standards of the time, and thus can be adequately justified on either grounds.

A cultural or religious practice that demeans, belittles or directs grave physical and psychological harm to women is not one that should be tolerated by a civilized society under the rubric of "cultural diversity."

Balfegor - Thankyou! I've heard that quote a lot, but never knew who to attribute it to, so I've not been able to use it. But that's precisely right, and that's precisely the attitude that is missing today when confronted with the litany of horrors that are imposed on women in Islamic countries.

MD said...

Simon, I take your point. My tangential and slightly emotional point, being Indian born and American raised, is, er, that I can't stand it when people bring up the 'British stopped suttee thing'! I mean, yes it was a good practice to stop, and yes, that is an interesting quote, but the basic situation was one in which one group of people tried to rule another group of people, and whatever the weaknesses of the second culture in terms of treatment of women or other cultural norms, it wasn't a good situation. There are these stories in my family, you know, where the British didn't treat women (a great grandmother, I think) particularly well......it's old folklore and I don't know how accurate it is, but it was just a red flag for me. I'd prefer to use another example, like feminists marching with supporters of Hezbollah or something, protesting Israel. Or, feminists dismissing bride-burning because it's occurring in a different culture. Actually, I can't think of an example of Western or Eastern feminists who have done the latter....

Anyway, that's what happened. I reacted emotionally. You know. Like a woman.

MD said...

Oh, BTW, I do hope you all realize I'm joking with the last statement.....

Balfegor said...

but the basic situation was one in which one group of people tried to rule another group of people, and whatever the weaknesses of the second culture in terms of treatment of women or other cultural norms, it wasn't a good situation.

Uh, "tried to?" They did for almost 200 years.

As a side note, the Turco-Persian Emperors of India -- the Mughals --attempted to suppress suttee too, after they conquered most of India. Aurangzeb, the last really powerful Mughal Emperor, was apparently quite firm on this point. The British were just more recent and more successful.

MD said...

Uh, of course. Stand corrected.

Bissage said...

I have three things to say: (1) best interests of the child; (2) best interests of the child; and (3) best interests of the child.

Revenant said...

I'm saying this is the year 2006, for heaven's sake, and the difficult, maddening, and ultimately rewarding business of moving forward the Indian democracy continues and this is a victory in that process.

The fact that India still needs special laws against sati (with special courts for handling them) -- laws which still need to be regularly, if rarely, enforced -- strongly suggests that India is perhaps not quite so modern as might be hoped, in this area at least. One would think that laws against murder would be enough, and could be tried by regular courts.

hdhouse said...

hmmm i wonder what rights are granted the step father. as one, with 3 step kids, and a deadbeat lawyer x of my wife's to contend with who owes (no joke) 143,000 in child support (he never paid and kept one step ahead of the law by moving state to state).. but he has more "rights" in these/my kids than i do. I have none.

there is no easy answer but carte blanche bestowing of rights to an 'x' upon remarriage of the wife is granting something nothing.