Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

State of Child Custody Cases abroad


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Child custody issues


Central idea:

  • Activists are calling on the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to take a stronger interest in child custody cases in Western countries.
  • The call comes as the movie Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway, which focuses on the diplomatic row between India and Norway in 2011.
  • The movie sheds light on cases where parents lose custody of their children over cultural differences in their upbringing.

Child Custody norms in India

  • India’s child custody laws are governed by-
  1. Guardians and Wards Act of 1890: It recognizes the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration in custody matters.
  2. Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956: It deals with the custody and guardianship of Hindu children.
  • Indian law generally gives custody of children to the mother in case of young children, but the father can also seek custody.
  • In recent years, there have been calls to reform the law to provide more equal rights to fathers in custody battles.

 The story beyond: Bhattacharya Case

  • The movie depicts real life story of a Bengali couple who had moved to Norway in 2007.
  • Their child reportedly developed ‘autism-like’ symptoms in his early years and was placed in a family kindergarten.
  • The family was reportedly under watch for months by the child welfare service and in May 2011, the authorities took away the couple’s children under the pretext of bad parenting.
  • Finally the Norwegian authorities took the child away to their shelter home for almost 14 months.

What accounts to ‘bad’ parenting in Norway?

  • Hand feeding: Norwegian authorities raised objection to the family hand-feeding the baby and equated it to force-feeding.
  • Child sleeping with parents: They also had problems with children sleeping on the same bed as their parents- something that is very common in Indian households.
  • Ban on physical discipline: Charges against the parents also included a slap by the parents – just once. Even mild physical discipline, such as a slap, is considered illegal in Norway.
  • Lack of recreation: Authorities accused the couple that the children did not have enough room to play. They were also accused of providing “unsuitable” clothes and toys to their children.

About Norway’s Child Welfare Services

  • The Child Welfare Services in Norway is commonly known as Barnevernet and is responsible for child protection in the country.
  • The organization is very strict about child protection and applies strict regulations for all citizens living in the country, regardless of their cultural background.
  • The primary responsibility of the Child Welfare Services is to implement measures for children and their families in situations where there are special needs in relation to the home environment.
  • Assistance is provided through counseling, advisory services, and aid measures, including external support contacts, relief measures in the home, and access to daycare.

The Bhattacharya Case and Diplomatic Row

The case of the Bhattacharya couple, whose children were taken away by Barnevernet, caused a diplomatic row between Norway and India. The Bhattacharya had appealed to the foreign ministry to intervene in the case where the Child Welfare Services had taken their children away from them.

  • Bias against non-citizens: The couple was accused of mistreating their children, but some claimed that the decision was biased against non-Norwegian citizens.
  • State kidnapping of children: Human rights activists in India, called the incident “state kidnapping”.
  • Labelling parents for being of unsound mind: In almost every case, they claim that one of the parents has a mental problem just to make their case stronger.

How did Norway response?

  • After a diplomatic row between the two countries, the Norwegian authorities decided to award the custody of the children to their father’s brother, enabling him to bring them back to India.

Way forward

  • The case highlights the need for transparent and unbiased decision-making processes in child welfare services, especially in cases involving non-native citizens.
  • While child protection is of utmost importance, the authorities must ensure that their actions are fair, just, and not biased against any particular group or culture.

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