Saturday, May 20, 2006


I see Fathers4Justice have made a reappearance. Unfortunately they only serve to polarise what needs to be a calm debate about how to best meet the needs of children when parents separate. A starting point would be to stop talking about the rights of mothers and fathers. Its about their responsibilities to the children they brought into this world.

The situation is more complex than F4J would want the media and public to believe. I would firstly like to state my position before elaborating on this. I believe as a society we need to recognise that both parents love their children and no one wins when families break up. Women have battled for years to get men to play their part in the bringing up of children. I do recognize that men are hurt when they no longer live with their children. As feminists we need to encourage men to remain in contact and recognize they have feelings.

Back to F4J. The reality is that there are still men out there who do not contribute or keep in touch with their children. Single mums are vilified but left holding the baby and the father no where to be seen. There are men who are violent to either their ex partner or their children.Courts have forced women to have contact with violent ex partners. There are cases of women and their children killed by ex partners . A recent Guardian article discussed these issues .

The starting point should be the children , their rights and needs . Both parties need to put aside hurt and anger and find a way to still be parents and minimise the distress for their children. F4J have to accept that there are times when it is not in the child interests to see their father, when there has been violence or abuse to the child . Where there has been domestic violence and there is a danger to the ex partner then contact may not be possible. A blanket right for fathers to see their children is not possible. Rights are not a given.