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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

October 20, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Just a few days ago I posted a piece about the most recent fiasco regarding father’s rights in the United Kingdom. That took the form of MP Jon Cruddas making a speech in which he took pains to demonstrate his complete ignorance of the whys and wherefores of fatherlessness in the UK. The point person for the Labour Party on family law issues, Cruddas took the opportunity to reassure all who count on family laws and family courts to separate children from their fathers that, should Labour win a majority in the Commons next election, nothing will change. According to Cruddas, if taxpayers pay for pre-natal classes for fathers, all should be well. The translation of that is that Labour has no intention of upsetting the gravy train for family lawyers that currently runs straight to the bank without stopping. The same words were meant for those feminists who so stridently oppose even the slightest improvement in fathers’ rights in family courts. Have no fear, Labour hears you, listens to your pleas and will continue policies that deny fathers to children.

But just in case anyone thought I was being overly cynical about the anti-father zeitgeist in the U.K., a thoughtful supporter of the National Parents Organization was kind enough to send me this. It’s Chapter Six of what’s laughingly called the Equal Treatment Benchbook that’s issued for the education of judges. It’s produced by the Equalities Ministry which means it actively opposes equality for men before the courts. It not only opposes equality, its authors frankly express the belief that equality between men and women in the justice system is unequal and is therefore suspect. George Orwell would understand perfectly.

The chapter is so chock full of shoddy thinking, factual errors and disinformation that a single post is unequal to the task of elucidating them all. The Benchbook’s treatment of topics related to family law and custody issues is plenty for now.

As we saw years ago with the Orwellianly-titled Global Gender Gap Report, the Equal Treatment Benchbook takes as its starting point that men never find themselves on the short end of the equality stick and therefore the frank discrimination against them need not be mentioned, let alone dealt with. The GGGR, when it found men’s outcomes in a particular area (say, education or health) to fall short of women’s, solved the problem by simply defining that situation as gender equality. The Benchbook is less blatant; it simply ignores obvious areas in which men fare worse than women. It ignores the facts of the matter or, where necessary to its purpose – i.e. giving women greater privilege than they already enjoy – misstates them.

Now, as we know, one of the areas of life in which men make out much worse than do women is that of child custody post-divorce. In the U.K., about 90% of child custody is awarded to mothers and fathers are the payors in about 95% of child support orders. To most people’s eyes, that looks like inequality. But the Benchbook ignores the matter entirely.

The chapter begins by listing seven “Key Points,” all of which are about women and the trials and tribulations they face in the judicial system. Not a word is said about men even though essentially all the points could and do apply to them. The point is that, from the outset, the Benchbook makes it clear that this chapter, although supposedly about gender equality, is in reality a brief for greater female privilege.

The chapter then moves into bullet-point mode to let readers know what’s coming. There are eight, six of which are explicitly about women only with one referring to transgendered people and another about

“Gender Stereotyping.” I thought that one might be promising. After all, there are plenty of assumptions made about men as well as women, and indeed, the section on Gender Stereotyping referred to several of them. I was glad to see, for example, that the Benchbook says it’s not necessarily true that “women are the primary carers of children,” and “men will not want to take time off work to care for children,” and “women are better carers than men,” and “female judges are more appropriate for family cases than male judges.” I couldn’t agree more.

Those and other correct concepts seemed to me to promise exhortations by the Benchbook to greater equality between mothers and fathers in custody cases. Not a chance.

Having clearly stated several factors that judges should be aware of that might prejudice them in favor of mothers and against fathers, the Benchbook returns to its default position of ignoring blatant discrimination against men, in this case, fathers.

[S]tatistics about common practices which disadvantage women generally may be relevant to establish indirect sex discrimination. This makes unlawful an unjustified practice that particularly disadvantages one gender as well as the individual claimant. Indirect discrimination recognises the need to make reasonable adjustment for disadvantaged groups (women, Black and minority ethnic groups, disabled people) the aim being to put men and women (and different racial groups and disabled people) on an equal footing.

Notice that every single thing that paragraph says applies to fathers in custody cases. Denial of custody to fathers is of course a “common practice” that “disadvantages” them. Therefore, it can be used “to establish indirect sex discrimination” on the part of family courts. This indirect discrimination against fathers therefore requires courts to “make reasonable adjustment for them,” “to put men and women on an equal footing.”

But never once does the Benchbook mention the possibility that inequality in the case of family courts redounds to the detriment of men. Having failed to consider the possibility that men might benefit from the concept of gender equality, it predictably ignores what judges might do to assist them in their quest to see something of their children now and again. It not only fails to mention fathers, but specifically refuses to. They’re not found anywhere in its list of disadvantaged groups even though they far outnumber ethnic minorities and disabled people. Men, remember them? They’re half the population.

The purpose of the Benchbook is to educate judges, and, from what I can tell, it does a pretty good job. It conveys the clear message that men suffer no discrimination and it does so even when spelling out some of the common misperceptions that encourage family court judges to do so. The anti-male bias of the “Gender Equality” chapter doesn’t get much more blatant than that. But it’s worth noting that, since the authors were citing common misperceptions about the sexes, they could have included a few others. “Men can’t take care of children,” would be one. So would “children don’t need their fathers,” as would “fathers are more likely than mothers to hurt their children,” as would “fathers don’t care about their kids,” and many more.

So when we see people like Jon Cruddas mouthing patent nonsense about how to connect fathers to children while doing absolutely nothing to address the real causes of fatherlessness, we shouldn’t be surprised.  The same holds true for the coalition government’s disgraceful display of do-nothingism over the past three years about one of the most harmful trends in the whole of the U.K. – the dogged persistence with which family courts shove fathers out of the lives of their children. What those things only suggest, albeit strongly, the “Equal Treatment” Benchbook makes explicit. Successive governments representing different parties and political philosophies, have at least one thing in common – their frank antipathy for fathers and the children who’d love to maintain ties to them.

When something called the Equalities Ministry, that’s supposedly tasked with equalizing the treatment of, among others, men and women, produces a publication called the Equal Treatment Benchbook that intentionally ignores one of the greatest examples of sexual inequality in the country, i.e. that between mothers and fathers, you get an idea of just how misandric the culture is.

This is deeply shameful. Gender ideologues will stop at nothing, it seems, to deny fathers to children.

Thanks to Malcolm for the heads-up.

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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