First it was the passport and now it is the PAN cards. Soon it will be a host of official documents that have to be formalised from childhood to adulthood. The issue is the mandatory inclusion of father’s name in almost every one them.
While the passport law was amended in 2016, after lobbying by various women’s group and Maneka Gandhi, the battle to drop the father’s name from the forms and the final document is being fought by single mothers at many government offices, almost everyday.
Two points are worth considering. One it’s a tough call for women who are single mothers – either as a result of circumstances or by choice. These single mothers may not want to get in touch with the child’s father for the documentation or want the child to know the identity of the father. Without sitting judgement on the prudence of their choice, the fact is that mothers as the caregivers have the right to make that decision.
Second, in a progressive and open society the law has to be sensitive to the divorced, separated, adoptive or otherwise single mothers.
The foreign ministry amended the passport law to say only one parent’s or guardian’s name will suffice in the application.
The finance ministry should follow this example for issuing PAN cards and the human resource ministry for issuing students’ degree certificates. Laws and rules should reflect the evolution of the society.
And in today’s India breakdown of marriages and separation of a couple is a reality. So are alternative parenting styles.
Let’s hope that rules are changed not only to make it easier for the single mother to navigate the forms and bureaucratic hurdles but also to reflect a society that is moving away from patriarchy to a gender sensitive one.
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