Well, that didn’t take long. The ink is barely dry on decisions by two of Europe’s highest courts and the backlash is already in progress. The European Court of Human Rights and Germany’s Constitutional Court issued back-to-back rulings recently that German law violates the rights of single fathers by placing them in the hands of the mothers of their children. About one child in three in Germany is born to a single mother. Up to now, those mothers had complete power to grant or deny parental rights to single fathers. That’s because, in order to obtain parental rights, a single father had to apply for them and the mother had to agree. If she declined to do so, he was out of luck irrespective of his desire, his fitness, her fitness, the needs of the child, the desires of the child, … everything. We’re used to mothers holding enormous power over the rights of fathers, but in countries like Britain, the United States, Canada, etc.,
they have to jump through some hoops to do so. Often, that simply involves concealing the child itself, or its paternity from the actual father. In Germany it was much easier. The law placed the father’s rights in the mother’s hands and that was that. Now, two separate courts having ruled that scheme violative of the laws of the land, the outrage has begun. Read about it here (Deutsche Welle, 8/11/10). And, as seems invariably to be the case, the anti-dad crowd just doesn’t manage to make any sense. For example, Edith Schwab, of Germany’s Association of Single Mothers and Fathers is squarely in the “believe the woman” camp. (As a sidelight, I wonder how many single fathers are members of the Association of Single Mothers and Fathers, and what they think about their fearless leader’s open antipathy toward them and their parental rights.) Schwab said:
“Mothers who refuse to share custody have very, very good reasons for their decision – meaning that the potential for conflict between the parents is so great that the mother has rightly chosen to deny joint custody.”
Oh, I see. When mothers come between fathers and their children, it’s always the right thing to do. How very simple. Except of course it ignores the multitude of proven cases in which the mother acted wrongly, in which the father was perfectly well qualified, in which it was the mother who was the abuser, the kidnapper, etc. It ignores the countless cases, again proven by evidence adduced in court, in which the mother was motivated by selfishness, a desire to avoid paying child support herself, etc. These cases appear daily in newspapers, magazines and on television and radio, but Schwab apparently hopes we haven’t noticed. For her, the word of a mother should be all it takes to keep a child from its father for all times. Needless to say, the anti-dad crowd also raised the specter of violence by fathers to argue against the courts’ decisions. I think these people must be voice-activated. When they hear the words “fathers’ rights,” their jaws begin to move and out spill words like these by one opponent of the courts’ rulings: “it (access by fathers) becomes problematic when there’s domestic violence.” Frankly, in the face of the well-known facts, this gets tiresome. For the umpteenth time, 35 years of scrupulous research on DV shows that women and men commit domestic violence equally. When it comes to abuse and neglect of children, mothers – at least those in the U.S. – do twice as much as fathers. Every year the Administration for Children and Families produces the figures from CPS agencies across the country, and every year it’s the same – ‘mother only’ abuse exceeds ‘father only’ abuse by at least two to one. Those opposed to fathers’ rights routinely seize on individual cases of child abuse by fathers to “prove” their point while doggedly overlooking similar or worse cases of abuse by mothers. Just a few days ago I posted a piece citing several instances of mothers murdering their children that came to light in the space of a few days. One French mother had done in eight of her newborns over the years; a New York woman had slashed her three children to death before setting fire to their house; a Japanese woman had starved her daughter to death and a Dallas woman had almost managed to do the same to her two children. More recently, a mother tossed her three children off a bridge, apparently killing the lot (Associated Press, 8/10/10). I don’t mention these to “prove” that all mothers should be suspect, but rather for the opposite proposition – that their behavior, however brutal and repugnant it is, is aberrant. Mothers generally should no more be judged according to the heinous acts of a few than should fathers be. But the anti-dad crowd applies a double standard; mother abuse – though much more prevalent – is given a pass while the much rarer abuse of children by some fathers is considered just cause to limit the rights of all fathers. What the German opponents of fathers’ rights to their children and children’s rights to their fathers truly don’t get is four little words – Due Process of Law. They want individual women to have all power over the parental rights of individual fathers. They want mothers’ rule to be law. The idea that a father should be able to go to court and have an impartial magistrate hear evidence admitted under gender-neutral rules and make the decision on custody applying gender-neutral laws is anathema to them. They want no part of it. As one opponent of the court decisions said,
“Giving the father custody rights also means that the mother cannot decide alone to move to another city or switch her child’s school.”
That’s right. And the fact that she doesn’t see a problem with allowing mothers to “decide alone” speaks volumes about the anti-dad crowd. They fear and loathe that pillar of civilization, Due Process of Law. Fortunately, Germany’s Constitutional Court knows better. Its spokesperson, Judith Blohm pointed out:
“the fathers also didn’t have the right to have a court determine what arrangement was in the best interest of the child.”
Depending on what the German parliament actually does in response to the courts’ decisions, fathers’ rights there will likely take a hesitant step forward. That step will be over the kicking, screaming figures of those for whom one child with a father is one child too many.