Women's groups and child rights activists have urged the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) seeking its intervention in securing the custody of the two Indian children who have been in foster care in Norway for the past several months.

In a letter to NCPCR Chairperson Shantha Sinha, the groups have asked her to contact the Child Welfare Services in Norway to ensure that the children do not suffer from any further violation of their rights. “Towards this end, we request you to ensure that the children's return to India is expedited, and their long separation from their parents at such a young age remedied without any further delay.”

A joint delegation from a number of national women's organisations and child rights groups also met the Deputy Chief of Mission in the Norwegian Embassy and handed over a memorandum. The delegation was assured that the children would be handed over to the extended family based in India and that the process of repatriation had already begun. The team impressed on the authorities the need to implement this decision without delay.

Pointing out that the chairperson of the Child Welfare Services in Norway had denied the charges of ‘cultural bias' and asked another ‘independent expert' to examine the matter and the condition of the children, the women's groups said such a step could not resolve the abrogation of rights arising from differing cultural perceptions.

“Violation of rights”

“While we are not going into the intentions of the child protection authorities in Norway, we are concerned about the imposition of Norwegian cultural norms on foreign citizens. We feel that the action taken by the Child Welfare Services has resulted in a violation of the natural rights of Aishwarya and Abhigyan. A little girl has been removed from the mother's custody when she was just five months old and was being breastfed. For eight months, the mother has had to go to the child care centre every day to give her breast milk in a bottle for the baby but she has not been allowed to feel or even see the child. These actions amount to cruelty and gross violation of both human rights and child rights,” the letter said.

The grandparents of the children, who had rushed to Norway on hearing the news, made the request that the children be handed over to them and that they would take responsibility for them, but this was denied. It was only after the issue was raised by the parties concerned and then taken up by the government did the Norwegian authorities now reconsider the decision, and reports indicated that the children were to be handed over to a family member, the letter said.

The letter was signed by the former MP Brinda Karat, Sudha Sundararaman (All India Democratic Women's Association), Sehba Farooqui (Delhi Janwadi Mahila Samiti), Jyotsna Chatterjee (Joint Women's Programme), Pramila Loomba (National Federation of Indian Women), Leila Passah (Young Women's Christian Association), Mary John (Centre for Women's Development Studies), Awadhesh Yadav (Forces), Dr. O.P Kulhari, Azra Abidi of the Muslim Women's Forum, Nirantar — Centre for Gender and Education, community paediatrician Vandana Prasad and Sharla James of the Guild of Service.

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