Response to biased article on fathers’ rights

Guardian Unlimited: Children should not be the victims of gender wars

This is a response to an atrocious article by Decca Aitkenhead on the scandal of children being forced to see their abusive fathers against their will, which slipped in some digs at fathers’ rights campaigners, notably Fathers4Justice (the guys who go up cranes dressed as Batman). She followed the usual feminist line of dismissing them as wife-beaters and dead-beat dads (like an article I reviewed a few months back by Joan Smith in the Standard), noting that a couple of nutters had plotted to kidnap Tony Blair’s young son, which “offered an instructive insight into its members’ concern for a child’s wellbeing”.

Here’s an extract from today’s response:

The article’s message was plain: first, the courts occasionally turn a blind eye to domestic violence and child abuse (true); second, the claim that many children are prevented from seeing their dads after separation is therefore groundless (untrue). Thus, the article bravely exposed one children’s scandal, only to sink low by using it to suppress the truth of another.

It is tempting to slip into these false polarities. Focusing solely on domestic violence and child abuse by some fathers places the argument firmly in the easily understandable realm of gender conflict. Fathers4Justice made precisely the same mistake by focusing solely on fathers denied contact with their children. But we must rise above gender conflict and recognise the full picture. That picture includes a failure to honour children’s relationships with their fathers. So, although the courts do indeed only rarely deny all contact, the contact awarded is usually inadequate and poorly enforced.

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