A 37-year-old man in Pune has started a satyagraha demanding equal parenting rights post divorce.
Pune engineer Tejsingh Gaikwad working in reputed organisation as consultant, is struggling to meet his six year old girl for last five years which has prompted him to take this step up. Gaikwad who is a volunteer of Men's Right Association has started an agitation which states that kids need 'fathers' and not 'visitors' and 'parental alientation is child abuse.' He started his agitation from March 31by visiting various parks in Pune city spreading message to have a healthy relationship.
Gaikwad said, "I am a victim of law. On one hand, our constitution talks about equality and on the other I am a helpless father who is struggling to meet his own daughter due to the laws which has granted parental custody to my wife. I have realised that there are many fathers like me who are facing similar issue. Why is the judiciary biased towards women? Are fathers not capable of handling their kids? Why are we treated like an accused from the very first day."
There are many other cases like Gaikwad
38-year-old Somnath Chavan, software techie by profession from Pune travels to Kolhapur on every first and last Saturday as he has visitation rights to meet his nine-year-old daughter on those days. He shares, "Despite the court granting me custody of my child for a day, my ex wife comes up with some excuse and does not let me meet her. I too can take care of my daughter. If I can pay maintainance for her education and livelihood why I cannot take care of her?"
Architecture by professiona, Vishal is separated from his wife for more than four years shares, "I have a four-year-old daughter who I am not given permission to meet as the judiciary id yet to come to a conclusion. I had applied for it in 2014 but the court keeps postponing the date. My wife is a chain smoker and drinks lot which has been proven in the court but still the custody of my child is kept pending for over two years. I have lost hope in my case. If I do not give maintatince to my wife for two months, the court reprimands me but when it comes to custody of my child, all my pleas go to deaf ears."
He added, "Just because we men don't shed tears often doesn't mean we don not have emotions. We cry too but we don'ty show off. The judicial system has always considered the man as culprit and this will never change. Women are always considered as victims and she doesn't have to prove anything. Just verbal or written statement without any evidence is enough to ruin the life of a man in this country."
Mahesh Shinde, president of Men's Right Association said, "In child custody cases, a kid is big asset for women which they smartly use against their husband. Since the father is also a natural guardian, he has equal rights on the child as of mother. In such cases 99% custody is given to mother. The father gets only visitation rights which is just 40 to 8 hours in a month. Most of the time, the fathers get to meet their kid in a court room which is a room of 10 by10. It is a very difficult atmosphere in the visitation room. When the mother does not get the child for visiting, the court doesn't take action against them. but if the fathers fail to pay maintenance for the kid and wife, the courts take strict action against them."
He added, "Share Parenting Plan must be introduced in each and every case so that both parents can come together and discuss the child's future. This, however remains only on the paper and is not implemented at all. Men can be good parents too, if given a chance."
V V Shahapurkar, former district judge of family court who is now working as marriage counselor said, "Welfare of child must be taken as a top priority by parents and children of broken families must not be used as a weapon. The court takes time to think about the custody of child right because it needs to be studied in depth as there is no hard and fast rule. Also, visitation places must be given in a good place rather than courtrooms, as court rooms are usually small in size. It's good that many NGO's are coming forward to help."