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DADDY DIARIES: Child custody and the gender debate

Tuesday January 14 2020

In most instances the ladies win; by simply not taking the risk to trust their men with baby care. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH

In most instances the ladies win; by simply not taking the risk to trust their men with baby care. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

HILLARY LISIMBA
By HILLARY LISIMBA
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From the days of Abraham, the social structure was that the men held all the centers of power, while the women tended to the children.

In essence, matters to do with household and baby care were left to the fairer sex, the assumption being that men could not be found dead doing them, and if they did the results would be disastrous.

As modernity kicked in, the world recognised that mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends too had sharp brains and wonderful ideas that could do wonders in board rooms, and women empowerment took root.

The same world has, however, for some reason turned a deaf ear to the fact that men too are equal partners in parenting who can independently raise children as perfectly as any mother would.

OPEN MINDED

Actually, sometimes the better parent in a family is the dad, but it takes an open minded mom to not just see it but also take a backseat and let him run the show.

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I once had a conversation with a woman who categorically told me that if the baby was admitted for whatever reason, her heart would only be at peace if it is her spending those nights in the ward beside the ailing one. This is regardless of whether or not the husband is willing to spend the night there.

In other words, even if that woman was married to the most hands-on and able husband on the planet, she would not trust him to come through for the baby at such a critical moment.

This is a baby the two sired and have most probably raised together, but somehow the male partner would be viewed with doubt. I can tell you for a fact that her hard-line position on this mirrors that of many mothers out there.

This is the mindset that has, to a large extent, caused a never-ending tussle between the two genders when the once good times end in a fight for child custody.

The women tend to reason from the angle of 'show me you are able first, then just maybe I can trust you with the baby' while the men's maxim is 'trust me with the baby first, then judge my performance.'

In most instances the ladies win; by simply not taking the risk to trust their men with baby care.

HEARTBREAKING
It is against this backdrop that we were recently treated to the heartbreaking video of a young girl clinging to the dad who had been ordered to hand her over to the mother.

The country has pointed fingers at the magistrate who made the obnoxious ruling, but any pedantic out there would argue that she was working within the law.

Chapter 153 of the Separation and Maintenance Act vests more power in a mother to seek custody for a child who is under 16 years . . . Unless there is sufficient evidence to discredit her.

In other words, the man must work twice as hard to not only prove his abilities but also discredit the woman for him to be considered fit for custody.

On this the law is failing us, totally. Such a serious system should not seem to be partisan in the gender war, rather begin by putting the child’s interest first through heaping emphasis on ‘the most deserving parent’ regardless of whether it is the father or mother.

And therein lies the problem.

As the man sat on that wooden bench trying to absorb the unfortunate news (and our judicial system needs to work on getting better seats), I saw myself in him.

He is a father who, like me, gave a blind eye to the world order and raised a baby in the absence of the mother.

ABSURD

It is however absurd that the law, which is supposed to be the voice of reason, had ignored all his years of raising the girl and deemed the other party better, because she is the mother.

The happy ending is that someone with a more reasonable mind saved the court’s blushes by overturning the ruling to allow the man have his baby back.

I bet the case was reviewed because one; the young girl exonerated the gentleman in court by totally refusing the mother, and two; the social media uproar.

If the girl was slightly younger, not the type to react the way she did or the video was not shared online, custody would have easily gone to the mother, who as we have learnt is what I would brutally term as toxic.

The deserving parent would have lost his baby on the basis of being a father.

I am lucky enough to have gotten an opportunity to share my story to such a large audience, but there exist many men out here quietly raising their kids alone.

The sad bit is that unless the law is amended and our judicial system employs people who can use wisdom in places the law shows gaping loopholes, men will continue losing their children to undeserving mothers because they have a lower hand in matters custody.

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