Kochi: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court observed that in the context of India, a female family member is always needed to take care of the children as we have not reached the level of Scandinavian countries where you have same-sex marriages and everyone is prepared to raise children .
Justices Alexander Thomas and Sophie Thomas made the observation while hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by a Gujarat-based man seeking the release of his 4-year-old daughter, who he says was illegally detained by his in-laws.
The court also took into account the fact that the petitioner was residing in Gujarat and that no material was produced to indicate that any female family member was residing with him who might be able to take care of the child .
“There should always be a woman at home. Or mother, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, grandmother, someone should be at home to look after the children”, the judge believes.
The bench compared the importance given to the role of women in raising children in India, as opposed to the more equal sharing of responsibilities that exists in other countries, including the Nordic countries.
“We have not reached the level of the Scandinavian countries, where there is same-sex marriage and everyone is ready to raise children. Men, women and everyone look after children and devote their time and energy to it. In the Indian scenario, when the children are very young, the most important thing is for the woman to be at home,” the bench observed orally.
He continued to express his concern for the child’s safety.
“Regardless of the gender of the child, it is very difficult for you to look after a child under 10 years old. You will be going to work and children can be exposed to so many dangerous things. Nowadays, sexual violence is on the rise even against young children, some children as young as 2 years old. It may not be a common occurrence, but a child’s safety is very important. Especially if you live in a distant country in a distant city,” the bench said.
“Please don’t get your hopes up, we can give you a merit judgement. If you disagree with it, please dispute it. We don’t know if children will behave properly and safely with you at this stage. You can come here from Gujarat and see your children and you can have weekly video calls with the child. Suppose you use the jurisdiction of the parents patriae, first and foremost is the welfare of the minor,” the Court said.
“Who will take care of the minor? Are you a 38-year-old male living alone and looking after a four-year-old girl? No reasonable court will entertain this plea,” the judge added.
The bench further said that it could not find any gross illegality in the fact that the applicant’s minor daughter was with her grandparents and suggested that he settle the custody matter in the Family Court instead of trying to convert proceedings under habeas corpus in a custody matter.
The court posted the case for a new hearing next week, when it will speak to the minor child and her grandparents via video call.