Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said she had been approached by several women—single, separated, or divorced—who were unable to procure their child’s degree certificate without providing the father’s name.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi yesterday requested Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar to change a rule that makes it mandatory to mention the father’s name on a student’s educational certificate. In a letter to the HRD Minister, Gandhi said she had been approached by several women—single, separated, or divorced—who found it difficult to get their child’s board and college certificates without revealing the child’s father’s name.
“Keeping in view the sensitivity of the single/separated mother, we need to make a provision for this purpose by changing rules/guidelines,” Gandhi said in the letter, and added that the rules must reflect the reality that “breakdown of marriages and separation between husband and wife” is part of society.
The changes in passport rules last year
Maneka had written to Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj last year on the issue of passports. Her letter to Swaraj had put the spotlight on the case of harassment faced by a single mother, Priyanka Gupta, whose husband abandoned her child immediately after her birth and yet passport officials had refused the child a passport unless it mentioned his name.
Thousands of people came out to support Priyanka's Change.org petition, in which she had demanded that her husband’s name not be put on her daughter Garima’s passport as the man had deserted her due to the birth of a girl child. Garima too had come out strongly in support of her mother stating: “To me, this petition is very important, because it’s for me only. I need my passport—it’s a necessity—but I don’t want it with the name of a man who abandoned us because of my being a girl!”
Soon, an inter-ministerial committee had been formed which recommended doing away with the practice of compulsorily printing the child’s father’s name or the name of the spouse on the passport. The recommendations were accepted by the MEA.
An applicant also needs to provide the name of only one parent for getting a passport made. This, the ministry said, would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and would also lead to the issuance of passports to those applicants who request that the name of the non-custodial parent not be printed on their passport.
Various issues related to passport applications where the mother/child had insisted the name of the father should not be mentioned and also relating to passport issuance to children of single parents and adopted children had been considered.
Let us not forget the need for change in mindsets
There are other deeper reasons for such changes—insisting on providing a father’s name reiterates patriarchal norms of women and children as belongings, and looks down on alternative family structures while giving undue importance to the institution of marriage. It is high time we move away from such outdated thinking.