Not too long ago I reported on a 12-year-old Canadian girl whose father had grounded her because she had disobeyed him by spending too much time on the Internet. Her being grounded meant that he refused permission for her to go on a class trip. She sued him and won. The Canadian court ruled that his punishment was too severe. At the time I said that I hoped the judges had given the dad their home telephone numbers. That way he could call them to ask their permission the next time she wanted to go to the movies or to a sleepover.
Now there’s this piece out of India (Indian Express, 6/21/09). It reports that a 12-year-old girl has filed suit against her father under that country’s Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act. What brutality did he commit against his daughter? He sent her to a school of which she does not approve.
The parents are divorced. The family court has ordered that the girl not be placed in any school without her father’s permission. I suppose the theory of the girl’s lawsuit is that the family court’s order violates the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act.
How is sending a girl to school domestic violence? Having read the Act, which you can do here, I’d guess as follows: The Act prohibits, among other things, any behavior by a male family member against a female family member that “tends to” “harm” the “mental” “well-being” of the female. So I figure that’s what she’s claiming the school is doing to her. I’m sure we can all imagine other things that might “tend to harm the mental well-being” of another person. Demanding that she do her math homework?
The Act offers no protection of men against women. Interestingly, it also offers no protection of women against women, so women in lesbian relationships aren’t covered.
Of course, I have no idea of what the outcome of this case may be. This and the Canadian case are just the most egregious examples of the current trend under which we are substituting the government for parents. There are cases in which that is unfortunately necessary. Cases of serious abuse or neglect by parents require the child to be protected by state authorities.
But one of the many ill consequences of family breakup is that it’s opened the door to family management by judges instead of parents. The more the institution of the family disintegrates, the more the state will step in; the more we stitch it back together, the more we’ll confine courts to their appropriate tasks.