The decision of the Norwegian authorities to separate two Indian children from their parents and send them to foster care on the ground of poor parenting was based on the laws on child rearing in Norway. While taking pride in our robust family system and its role in providing emotional support, we should not be oblivious to the abuse of different hues continued to be inflicted on our children by adults with impunity. Although we don't need sermons from the western countries on good parenting, there is nothing wrong in learning from them about the care they take to ensure that their children are protected.
The Norwegian child laws, however harsh, are proactive. The authorities did not wait for any formal complaint but identified a case of what they thought was child abuse and warranted foster care. In India — almost bereft of an effective child protection programme — action is taken only after a complaint is lodged or when incidents of abuse become public. The pathetic story of a battered two-year-old undergoing treatment in AIIMS is a case in point.
As Srinivas Chandrashekaran pointed out (Letters, Jan. 27), parenting leaves a lot to be desired in India. The government, in particular, has never even considered parenting skills an issue. From elementary school to higher secondary, children are targeted the most in parent-teacher meets. Similarly, when children are taken to doctors, they never ask them what their problem is. They ask the parents and, based on what they say, treat the children. I agree that our cultural values cannot be compared with western countries. But if we address some issues in bringing up children, we may not have to face any embarrassment when we go abroad.
That the Norwegian authorities decided to separate two infants from their biological parents and put them in the care of foster homes in the name of providing proper childcare is a paradox. This action of cruelty on the innocent children is based purely on a supposition of non-adherence to physical standards of childrearing prescribed by the law of the land. The system is blind to the finer aspects of parental love, essential for the all-round development of a child. While being concerned about the environment of child rearing, the authorities have ignored the emotional trauma the parents and other members of the family are subjected to. Is this not a violation of human rights?