So it has now become officialthat the government has rejected not only Norgrove's opposition to the concept of shared parenting but also the wrong headed rejection of it by the previous governments (Conservative and Labour) and the establishment (especially Cafcass and the judiciary).
This also includes those groups such as the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the government's Equalities Department and other like minded groups (Fawcett Society anyone?) who proclaim they are in favour of equality while purposely turning a blind eye to the fact that children were (overwhelmingly) not being able to share their lives with their fathers.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission's stance has been particularly sickening because it is clear there has been for decades a clear form of sexual discrimination against fathers in operation not only in the way the judiciary and Cafcass operate but also in the way that many mothers have been allowed to willfully break the law by ignoring court orders (even Ken Clarke on Radio 4's Today Programme on Monday morning bemoaned the fact that mothers broke court orders without any consequence and therefore were undermining the rule of law). Remember, if this was happening with the genders being reversed the Commission would be banging the drum every day. Their silence has been shameful and shows their antipathy towards men.
Until the ink is dry, the legislative statement in place and the judges acting upon it then we can not count our chickens.
However, it is worth reflecting on how the campaign was won.
Firstly, you do need a government that is willing to listen and is not ideologically driven to hate men (the previous government supported ideologically the view that men should not be part of the children's lives). While there is an anti-male element in the coalition government, overall there was a will to deal with this problem because of the family centred views of the two parties that form the coalition. It helps with a cadre of MP's who have had men turning up to their surgeries for years and not being to help. A new cadre of MP's suddenly facing this issue will also have helped.
Secondly, there was a pincer movement of more radical groups who worked outside the tent such as F4J and RF4J who brought the problem to the attention of every member of public and then other groups such as Families Need Fathers, Fatherhood Institute, Grandparents' Apart and Grandparents' Association amongst others who worked within the tent. This pincer and combination of groups broadly making the same arguments in different ways ceaselessly for years and years on end helped to create the framework for this week's result.
In terms of what lesson there can be learned for the future of male equality, dealing with injustice against men and men's issues in general, a few pointers could be made:
(1) The need to never give up - the campaign at all levels went through peaks and troughs but never ended and the campaign for equality for men must never end.
(2) The need for black swans/outliers, and wanting to be outside the tent is always vital. They help lay the ground and open the door for the mainstream. Here, despite the years of great work by FnF and others, if F4J had not brought the problem to the public fore, the impetus for change and the spotlight being shone on the subject in the way it did would never have happened. While this has been such a crucial and fundamental issue, Tom Martin's campaign against the LSE is another example of how the door can be opened and every year there are others (Mirko Fischer vs British Airways) who can make this happen.
(3) While (2) is vital, there also needs to be mainstream groups within the tent trying to influence public policy to ensure the government and others who are naturally conservative with a small 'c' have people they fell they can work with without controversy.
(4) The need to be firm, consistent, fighting the corner on our terms but doing it in the right tone is also vital. While (3) outlines the need for mainstream groups being in the tent, there is no point being in the tent if it means sacrificing your core aims. This is why the consistency and the firmness of groups within the tent has been important because, especially under the last government, it would have been too easy to have become suckered into the status quo. But groups like FNF stuck to their guns.
A number of other groups working in other fields such as the Men's Network, ManKind Initiative, Abused Men in Scotland, Prostate Cancer Society and others are vital because while they are in the tent and are part of the mainstream they are not losing their message. And on many occasions they are verr firm in what they believe in but the tone is right. This has to be the template going forward.
(5) Turning the equalities and fairness rhetoric against those who abuse it. The last point is to remember often discrimination against men and/or the omission of men, is undertaken in the 'spirit' of fairness and equality. One lesson from this week's announcement has been the way the messaging has been about the unfairness and inequality that children have in not being able to have a relationship with both parents. How could those who believe in those things continue to deny the rights of children in this way.
This (5) has been a powerful tool especially used by some of the groups mentioned in (4) and others in demanding why the women's movement proclaims it is is favour of equality when in practice that equality does not apply to people who happen to be men.
There may be other lessons to be learned but at least this week there is a glimmer of hope for those children wanting to have a meaningful relationship with their fathers and their grandparents who have been denied it so far because of the legal system and their mothers.
Posted by Skimmington