Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Women's rights vs. fathers' rights

John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia recently posted concerning women's medical status in Saudi Arabia. In the case cited, a woman in labour needed a Caesarian, but her husband had signed papers disallowing the procedure, even if it meant death for his child. The Saudi doctor involved managed to persuade the husband to change his mind, but he was shaken. He also came to the conclusion that the ultimate decision in cases like that should be left in the hands of the mother. It's awfully hard to argue with a conclusion like that (although any number of Wahhabis probably would) and I'm certainly not going to be the one to do it.

One of the commenters though brought up an excellent point:
However, in the West, we have many issues to the other extreme. Men are not consulted regarding abortions. Also, many women have given up children for adoption without the man’s knowledge, or consultation. Custody for men was also rarely given, despite circumstances.

Justice is rarely found at extremes and these are the two extremes: when women have no say and when men have no say.

In any properly functioning system, authority and responsibility must go hand in hand. You cannot strip someone of any authority and at the same time impose responsibility on them, or vice versa. If we are going to strip men of any say in what happens to their children, we must also absolve them of all responsibility too.

Not that I would advocate doing so. A balanced approach, that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all three people involved in the birth of a child, is the ideal. Most couple probably find this balance all on their own - I know that this was the case in our home. But the courts must often make decisions when couples haven't been able to resolve these issues on their own, and the lawmakers in Western countries should be looking for a better balance when it comes to the rights and responsibilities of fathers.


Jared said...

Until the legal disparity between mothers and fathers is addressed, we're going to see more and more cases like Roe vs. Wade for Men.

As it stands, men do have a valid point that, if women are allowed to forego their responsibilities as a mother, a father should have the same right.

If the idea of men being able to legally abjure paternal responsibility is so morally repulsive, the same should be true of mothers doing so.

Of course, until our legal system stops limiting the role of fathers to that of financial providers, we shouldn't be surprised that men want to distance themselves from fatherhood.

Janet said...

This seems to be a common problem throughout Western societies. I think it is unbalanced and unhealthy.

On the other hand, I don't think that men in general can use it for an excuse to distance themselves from fatherhood. We are responsible for our own decisions and attitudes and we don't have to buy what the courts say.

I think the deeper reason why men are turning away from fatherhood is the same reason that women are turning away from motherhood and both are turning away from marriage: self-absorbtion. Our culture has become so centred on the "fulfillment", comfort, convenience, and pleasure of the individual that children, responsibilities and commitment are seen as negatives by far too many people. It is not for nothing that our birth rates are falling below replacement levels. It's a form of cultural suicide.

Having said that, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the men who've been victimized by the current system. While we are often dished up the image of the deadbeat dad - who genuinely exists - we don't often hear about the fathers being crushed under unreasonable and unnecessary support payments.


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