Monday, September 13, 2004

Would you let this man look after your kids?

Fathers "4" Justice are at it again. This time while the UK is allegedly on "high" terror alert, or whatever it is at the moment, some pratt in tights and a leather-effect mask is burning up the cash the police should be spending on catching real "baddies" by trespassing halfway up a Buckingham Palace wall.

If I donned my "stop the war" T-shirt and did the same thing I'd say there's a reasonable chance I'd be shot. I'm not exaggerating incidentally: according to the story on the BBC "Sir John (Stevens, Metropolitan Police Commissioner) said police made a split-second judgement that Mr Hatch was not a security risk because of the way he was behaving and the clothes he was wearing - and for this reason they did not open fire." So expect a run on batman outfits for the international terrorist community this week.

Well aside from the absolute stupidity of the guy, the fact that these F4J are getting a hugely disporportionate amount of press coverage relative to how many of them there are, etc, etc he must have some point to make so lets have a look at what he's protesting about...

He wants greater access to kids for non-resident parents. Well that's a good enough cause right? Its got to be good for kids to spend time with their Dads. As a general principal I would completely agree. Personally I suspect that most single mothers would agree with that statement too. Here are a few issues I have with it though:

1) If these guys are so keen to see their kids - why didn't they/don't they apply for custody? Well maybe some did/do but statistically it's a tiny number. If they're not prepared to take on the responsibilities of looking after a child then shouldn't we let the person who HAS taken on the responsibilities make the decision on what they do at weekends. Do people who give their kids up for adoption have visiting rights? I think not.

2) Life as a single mother is not easy. We should realise that. Giving fathers legal rights to access their kids at certain times and for certain time periods places a further burden of organisation on someone who probably really doesn't need it.

3) Lets not forget (lest we ever...) that 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime. In a typical year 500,000 women will be victims of domestic violence in the UK while 25,000 men will have contact orders for access to their children broken*.

*The shock-horror statistics will tell you that this is half of the contact orders made. So why are only 50,000 contact orders made? Well because everybody else either is able to have access without an order, or didn't bother applying for an order, doesn't want to see their kids or was turned down by the courts as not fit to have access to the kids.

Don't get me wrong here, I do believe that in an ideal world every kid would have a wide range of adult role models including both of their biological parents, their grandparents, etc. But this is the real world and while that lot are busy breaching national security... someone else is looking after the kids!

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