Regardless of where you stand on child protection agencies, with thousands of children being torn annually from their parents in Scandinavian countries, they can hardly claim to be the “happiest” in the world. Do we really have in Scandinavia a unique and historic case of parental dysfunction? Or are parents being misjudged by their system?
In this article, Denmark-based Indian journalist Mrutyuanjai Mishra claims that Scandinavia’s social welfare agencies are causing a human rights crisis with the systematic wrongful removal of children from parents. He argues that this state-sponsored child snatching is driven by an aggressive version of feminism that views the family as an outdated patriarchal institution which oppresses children who need to be “saved” by being removed from their parents. But the result has been the unfair targeting of the poor, the uneducated, migrants and, recently, fathers in general. This article was first published on 13 January 2018 in the Sunday Guardian with the title Europe’s forgotten children and a human-rights crisis as part of our ongoing weekly series in collaboration with them called ‘Global Child Rights and Wrongs’.
When it comes to human rights it is often the West that accuses the rest of the world of violations. We seldom see a concerted effort by Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries to demand a scrutiny of how Western European nations treat their citizens.
It is time to bring some focus on the forgotten European children abducted by social service authorities. These children are sent to foster carers who bring them up without allowing any connection with their biological parents. This is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which most Western European and other countries of the world have signed.
Sweeping powers have been granted to public authorities like Barnevernet in Norway, Socialstyrelsen in Sweden and Socialforvaltningen in Denmark. Social service sectors have an overrepresentation of women. Often women with an anti-family ideology seek such jobs. This leaves an entire sphere of family laws and their interpretation in the hands of those who are biased against the family as an institution and are systematically removing children from immigrant families, from poorly educated Scandinavians who do not know how to defend themselves, and in recent years, they have started targeting fathers in general, as well.
83 percent of the staff at Statsforvaltningen, which makes decisions on children´s lives in Denmark, are women. I am a staunch supporter of equal rights for women. But unfortunately, in the case of Scandinavian countries an aggressive lobby of racist anti-family feminists have literally infiltrated institutions of child protection agencies, political parties and educational institutions. They target immigrant mothers and families because it is assumed that they adhere to an outdated patriarchal system with a blind reverence of family as an institution.
It is indisputable that gender discrimination exists even today in advanced countries like Denmark. Equal pay for equal work and more representation of women at top posts, especially in the private sector, is still a distant goal. Yet, some of the efforts to compensate have gone too far, especially in undermining the biological family to the extent that the need of children for their biological mother and father has been ignored.
This comes from a particularly aggressive version of feminism that sees all filial ties, even motherhood, as socially constructed to foster patriarchy and keep women confined to the home. According to this ideology, both women and children in the family are oppressed – women by male dominance, and children by parental authority (itself seen as a patriarchal concept). The State is given wide powers to supersede the parents with the intention of “saving” the child from them. But the result of these wide powers has been that too often State authorities take children without justification. Since they target mostly poor and uneducated parents or immigrants unaware of the system, such parents find it difficult to fight back.
Pierre Bannasch, a male journalist at BT, one of Denmark’s largest newspapers, wrote a touching piece last month just before Christmas about how he is unable to see his daughter, now 12 years old. In the article he illustrates that the system gives no help, and he is left with no other hope than that one day, when his daughter is old enough, she will take the initiative and knock on his door. Meanwhile, he will be celebrating one more Christmas without her.
This story of a father forced to lose contact with his child is common in Denmark. I have met scores of children in Denmark’s higher secondary schools, known as ‘gymnasium’, who tell how they have contact with just one of their parents. 50 percent of marriages in Denmark end in divorce. Jesper Lohse, the head of Foreningen Far, a father´s organization, has been quoted in Danish media saying that in the last decade at least 100.000 cases of divorce, where children are involved, have had unjust and unfair outcome. 95% of fathers who have been in contact with the child service centers like Statsforvaltningen or other family administration units have felt discriminated against. If fathers are lucky and can afford to pay for good lawyers, they might re-establish contact with their children. But many lose contact with them forever. Many fathers succumb to the psychological wounds of this biased system. The number of suicides committed by men is three times higher than that by women in Denmark.
Daniel Dencik, a film director and famous author has written a book, “Anden person ental” (Second Person Singular), about the enormous power social authorities have in Sweden and Denmark. Daniel Dencik lost contact with his two children and has not seen them for several years after he was accused of being violent. He was cleared of all accusations but contact with his children is still not established.
This is an issue in all of Scandinavia. In a November 2017 article in the Norwegian newspaper VG, Gottorm Grundt, the director of the organization, Mannsforum, which fights for equal rights of men, wrote that research shows that 70 % of children who do not adjust well in the first years of school are boys. When I met Gottorm Grundt recently at a conference arranged at the premises of the Danish Parliament, he said that the reason is that these boys often have no contact with their fathers and no male role models.
I had the privilege in 2014 to participate in Nordiskt Forum Malmö, a global conference on women´s rights in Sweden. It was attended by delegations from several countries. One immigrant woman of Asian background, who was also one of the speakers, came up to me after the conference, and asked if I could speak any Asian languages. When I told her that I understand Hindi and Urdu, she told me that during her job as a translator she experiences terrible things like the removal of children by force. She told me that parents of immigrant background are often accused of slapping their children or of some other violence, and without proof children are removed from their custody. After six months the children, who are fed candy and kept away from their biological parents, refuse to come back to them.
This happens very often, and she felt that none of the Swedish media would write about it as there is consensus among journalists that Sweden treats its migrants magnificently – the best in Europe. The narrative that dominates the Swedish media is how other countries treat their migrants in a despicable manner.
In the eyes of the world, Scandinavian countries figure as the ‘happiest’ countries in the world, but there are stories that no one writes. Very little attention is given to issues of children being systematically stolen by the State and forced to live with foster carers. This is a human rights crisis in Scandinavia of which the world needs to be made aware.
Mrutyuanjai Mishra writes regularly for the Danish and Indian newspapers. At present he is based in Denmark and writes for the Danish newspaper BT.