NEW DELHI: The Union Woman and Child Development Ministry is mulling to mobilise countries in South East Asia to sign an international treaty on parental kidnap on certain “terms and conditions” on the grounds that these nations have similar cultural sensibilities.
Officials in the ministry said that after a committee under Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Rajesh Bindal submitted a draft law on the issue recently, the government is set to determine its stand on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects to International Child abduction.
The 1980 convention, which has been signed by 98 countries, stipulates that children be returned to the country of habitual residence if a parent, following a dispute with a spouse, takes them to another country and the custody battle be fought in the country where the couple originally lived.
There is mounting pressure on India to accede the convention as hundreds of parents — mostly women — have been accused of bringing children here following marital disputes with spouses in the US and other countries.
“The panel in its report has said that though there should a national authority to deal with such cases and parental abduction should be seen as an offense but has also recommended that the cases should be seen in Indian context,” an official said.
“We are therefore exploring the possibility to mobilising other SAARC countries to join the treaty at certain conditions. The matter will be discussed with the Ministry of External affairs soon.”
Barring Pakistan and Sri Lanka, all 6 SAARC countries — India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Afghanistan — are yet to sign the treaty.
The official added that most Indian women who bring back their children from abroad often do so while escaping abusive marriages.
“In such cases, they cannot be forced to send their kids back and fight a messy custody battle for them. Also in India, mothers are considered first and most natural guardians of kids unlike West where children are seen as individual entities,” he said.
Another official dealing with the issue that the example of Japan, which signed the convention in 2014 on the condition that no force will be used to take away children from “taking parents”.
“We will also come up with our terms that suit our social realities,” he said.