I’ve just been fiddling with my SatNav.
I zoomed right out and managed to get the whole of Western Europe on the small screen, although this wasn’t particularly helpful in assisting me with my 1 mile journey to the local shops!
While I was fiddling, it made me think about the Children and Families Bill, and about the need to ‘zoom out’ for perspective.
There has, of course, always been a direct link between societal norms and legislation.
Most significant shifts in societal norms have led to changes in legislation, but this has usually involved a tough struggle!
Anti-discrimination legislation for people of different race, gender and sexual orientation all eventually followed in the wake of changes in society.
However, in each case, the resistance from what I shall call ‘the forces of conservatism’ was powerful. There were significant vested interests in the status quo, and those who stood to lose out were not going to accept change without a fight!
Honourable campaigners for justice and reform were discredited, undermined, attacked and even murdered.
Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham Gaol touches my heart each and every time I read it. It is the quintessential call of any person facing discrimination and demanding justice.
Now, I perfectly accept that Matt O’Connor of ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ is NO Martin Luther King Jr!
However, his argument for justice for children is Righteous. It is Good. It is Honourable.
A child surely deserves to enjoy the love, care and guidance of two good and responsible natural parents.
The ideology of parenthood of the 1960′s and 70′s saw the mother as the ‘natural’ carer and the father as the ‘natural’ financial provider. Family legislation reflected this ideology.
Of course, societal norms have now changed. In 21st century Britain, BOTH genders are now viewed as natural carers and financial providers.
Has legislation fully caught up with this societal change? No.
Do fathers face systematic gender discrimination? Yes.
Is this discrimination indirectly perpetrated via the legal constructs of ‘primary carer’ and ‘non-primary carer’? Yes.
I am a good, responsible and conscientious parent. I know I am, because a judge found me to be so!
And yet I was forced to endure two periods of separation from my beautiful children: firstly for 8 months and subsequently for 1.5 years. Now we are together for just one weekend a month.
Any genuine ‘meaningful involvement’ in my children’s lives has been significantly undermined.
I am not alone in my experience.
There are thousands of perfectly good and caring British parents (mainly fathers) who face similar discrimination.
To the “discrimination deniers”, to those who seek to preserve their vested interests in the status quo, and to those who are simply unaware of the discrimination, I say, think of that child, think of what he is missing, think of what you might say to him if he were to ask why he couldn’t see his father.
Let us open our hearts and our minds.
Let family legislation reflect modern parenthood.
Let us support Tim Loughton MP and his shared parenting legislation in the Children and Families Bill.