India: WCD ministry undecided on child abduction meet in Hague



A meeting called by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry on Friday to consider whether India should be a signatory to the Hague convention on civil aspects of international child abduction remained inconclusive.

Signing the treaty will make inter-parental child abduction an offence punishable with one-year jail.

WCD minister Maneka Gandhi who chaired the meeting, however, said that a model legislation to safeguard not only the interests of the child but also of the parents, especially women, must be developed, irrespective of whether India signs the treaty or not.

The ministry had earlier refused to join the treaty saying it was against the interest of women. Some 90 countries have signed the Hague convention that protects children under the age of 16 from “wrongful removal or retention” by a parent and ensures “their prompt return to the state of their habitual residence”.

Following over an hour long discussion with all stakeholders, including officials from home and foreign affairs ministry, high court judges, affected parents among others, the WCD ministry has now asked the Chandigarh Judicial Academy and NRI Commission of Punjab to examine in detail the legal issues involved by taking all viewpoints into account, including those of suffering women. They will have to submit their report within four months.

“They will give recommendations as to how the problems of parents and children involved in such situations can be addressed. They will also study the draft Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016 prepared by the ministry,” said a senior WCD ministry official.

Gandhi said that a large number of women married to Indians abroad are compelled to return to India with their children when they undergo violence in their marriages.

Expressing concern at the difficulties being faced by the affected parent, whether men or women and their children as a result of breakdown of marriages abroad, Gandhi said that a mechanism needed to be developed to address the plight of such parents.

Ministry officials said that the women who had suffered from violence in marriages abroad far exceed men. Last year, the ministry was nudged into drafting the civil aspects of international child abduction bill by the Punjab and Haryana high court and law commission. But the bill is yet to get the cabinet nod.

There has been a steady rise in parental abductions as more and more Indians go abroad to work or study. Children often bear the brunt of their parents’ marital disputes and are often forced to return to India by one of the quarreling parents. In most cases, it is the mother who returns with the child.

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