South Asia Citizens Web
[From The Hindustan Times, Saturday, February 20, 1999, New Delhi]
Women's bodies hail SC ruling on guardianship
HT Correspondent (New Delhi, February 19)
Women organisations have hailed the Supreme Court judgement
conferring equal guardianship right over children to
mothers. They termed the judgement as the first step in the
direction of introducing gender equality in the statutory
provisions of law.
Executive trustee of women's organisation 'Kali for Women'
Urvashi Butalia said that the judgement was long overdue.
"What is necessary now is that the Government should change
the law so that both parents are deemed to be the guardians
of the child and not just the father," Ms Butalia said. She
said that a positive aspect of the judgement was that it was
given on a petition filed by both husband and wife which
signified that men have also begun to think seriously about
gender equality in law.
In this context, Ms Butalia pointed out that most laws were
not "gender just", be it the law of inheritance or
succession and that it was time that the Government did
something about it.
Brinda Karat, general secretary of All India Democratic
Women's Association (AIDWA), said that the logic of the
Supreme Court judgement should be extended to other laws as
well. "Since it is clear from the comments of the Supreme
Court judges that women are equally the natural guardian of
the child, other laws where the man is treated as the head
of the family should also be changed so that the woman is
treated as the joint head of the family," Ms Karat said.
The AIDWA general secretary said that the existing law
resulted in a lot of harassment to separated and divorced
women who, in spite of having actual custody of the
children, have to run to their estranged husbands for
signatures due to the "ridiculous provisions of law." The
husbands often use the requirements of law to bargain with
their estranged wives, Ms Karat pointed out.
Director of Sakshi and advocate Naina Kapoor said that the
Supreme Court judgement would have far-reaching effects.
"The judgement acknowledges women as the primary care givers
to children. It gets rid of the notion of ownership over
women of their husbands which is an artificial concept.
The judgement is realistic in terms of what both parents do
for their children in day to day life right from getting
them admitted to schools," Ms Kapoor said.
Director of Centre for Social Research, Ranjana Kumari said
that the Supreme Court judgement putting women on par with
their husbands with regard to guardianship, should be
reflected in rights of women over property also. Married
women should have an equal right in the property of their
husbands as they contributed to their husbands' lives by
taking care of the home and children. Only if the woman has
an equal share in the property will she be able to take
proper care of the children in her custody and not have to
depend on her husband for monthly maintenance, Ms Ranjana
The equal status of a mother as a guardian can be realised
only if she has equal right in the property of her husband,
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