Gender & Sexuality - Monday, April 13, 2009 17:06
Are Barbados’ child support and paternity laws skewed against men?By Kathy Lehay, Staff writer
The Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA) calls for a change in the Maintennance Act and paternity rules in Barbados. Our Gender writer, Kathy Lehay believes it is a call worth endorsing.
When MESA speaks, some feminists yawn.
While at times misogynist, their musings still need to be considered objectively since it does not serve the agenda to ignore them blankly. Indeed, gender inequality thrives when one gender group self identifies as being less than the other – and this has, at times, been MESA’s claim in many of its messages.
One area in which Barbadian men claim to be maligned is with respect to child support and paternity testing, which MESA chairman Ralph Boyce says is skewed in favour of women.
Under the current Maintenance Act, men in Barbados are obliged to pay child support to a former spouse, even for a child that is not theirs. Compounding this, Boyce says, men are solely responsibility for covering the costs of paternity tests, and the chairman is further incensed that there is no refund available for negative results.
The Maintenance Act’s so-called ‘assault on men’ goes further by stipulating that only the legal guardian of a child – normally the female – can give permission for the child to have its DNA tested, a request which she could theoretically deny and thus hold a man responsible for child support in perpetuity for a child which he did not father. In addition, courts have been known to block requests for DNA testing and fail to recognise test results.
In light of the above, I endorse MESA’s lobbying drive to have the Maintenance Act revamped, and to legislatively mandate that the authority to initiate paternity tests (and the responsibility to pay for them) be shared equally between partners.
While I do not subscribe to the underlying implication that all women are prone to putting ‘jackets’ (outside children) on unwitting men, denying them the right to know the child’s paternity and extracting money from them, it would be naive of me to think that it does not happen – albeit as an exception rather than the rule. Moreover, the Maintenance Act as it stands now can only serve to inflame tensions between men and women, inspiring the same distrust and disrespect within men for women that leads to domestic abuse, gender based violence and discrimination.
It goes without saying that skewing legislation in favour of women does not does not make for gender equality.
This and other issues – including MESA’s new stated commitment to spearhead programmes for abusive men – are contained in the organisation’s annual report for 2008, available from the organisation’s headquarters at #10 Garrison, St. Michael.
The views expressed above are solely those of the named author, Kathy Lehay, and do not represent the Antillean’s official view.
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