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What does Gunnar Toresen know about children?: Suranya Aiyar

February 26, 2012

Gunnar Toresen (Photo credit: Marie von Krogh / http://www.rogalandsavis.no/)

Guest post by SURANYA AIYAR

Much has been made of the differences between Indian and western parenting in the wake of the removal of two small children from their Indian family in Norway by the Norwegian Child Welfare Service. But there is something more invidious than racism at work here?

The children were two and a half and four months old at the time of their removal to foster care. Observe any mother with children, babies rather, of this age, and you will see that the mother is the centre of a small child’s world. For a young breast-fed infant of the age of four months, as was Aishwarya, the mother is almost her entire world. That is how infants and toddlers experience the world. So let us, first and foremost bring to centre stage this very un-adult, unscientific, but immutable truth of a baby’s reality before we start to speak of its rights.

Let us also make a distinction between adults and babies. Babyhood has its own unique set of needs – physical and emotional; its own personality, quite separate from adult needs and perceptions. You cannot apply adult co-ordinates of well-being to an infant or young child.

Take what has happened in this case. In its attempts to re-assure those concerned, the Child Welfare Services and the Norwegian Embassy in India have said that the children are being “well taken care of” and, have been eager to clarify that the Norwegian foster family is being advised of “Indian food culture”.  Food? Is that the measure of a child’s welfare for the Norwegian Child Welfare Service? Their complete disconnection from the world of a young child is demonstrated by the things they do not say in the attempt to reassure us:  what is being done to make the toddler Abhigyan feel secure, faced with the sudden, incomprehensible absence of his mother and father? What about Abhigyan’s feelings at suddenly being surrounded by people speaking only in Norwegian, of which he does not understand a word? What about how he felt seeing only these big, white-skinned people babbling at him in a strange tongue with no sign of mama, hour after hour, day after day? Does a three-year-old see an adult of a different race as another version of the brown-skinned Bangla speaking adults he was familiar with, or are they a bit alien to him – is it like being flown to Mars on a spaceship and being left alone with the Martians?

Do you smile, dear reader, when you read this? Do you scoff? Well, that is how fledgling, how contingent, how absurd, how potentially terrifying, in a word how childlike, is a little toddler’s ability to grasp the world. This is how the removal of a toddler from the home and companions it knows to a foreign foster home – new people, new routines, new smells, new foods, new words, new bed, new toys – has to be understood, nay felt.

And what about Aishwarya? Was Aishwarya taking the bottle when she was removed from her mother? If not, how traumatic must it have been for the little infant to be suddenly deprived of her only known source of food – breast-fed babies can take up to three weeks before accepting the bottle. Even bottle-fed babies can go for days refusing to take the bottle from an unfamiliar person. How was that handled? Does the Norwegian Child Welfare Service just let the baby “cry it out” – a method so popular in the west where the dominant belief is that a baby’s crying means nothing and is only its way of “manipulating” those around it.

How did Aishwarya’s mother put her to sleep? Did she rock her? Hum a Banlga lullaby? Does any of this matter? Pick up a sleepy infant that you have never held before and see how it twists and cries and contorts itself, refusing to settle despite all your efforts to soothe it. Now hand it to its mother or its nanny, and miraculously – silence! Very early on, an infant develops a clear ability to recognise the arms and voice  of the one who held it most since it was born and that’s it. No one else will do. To adults that have never been put to the care of infants – think of it like being in love. You cannot lie with just anyone.

So let it be clear to the advocates of the Child Welfare Service that regardless of the whys and wherefores (“was there abuse?”, “there must be more to this story”) of this case, the removal of Abhigyan and Aishwarya from their parents to foster care was traumatic.

Now let us ask, was it necessary? Apparently, the grounds for separating the children from their mother were her “incompetence” and “gross negligence”. The fact that the first court to which the Bhattacharya parents appealed found in their favour shows that these findings are a matter of subjective interpretation at best. In any event, surely the focus should be on enabling parents to perform better, not removing children to foster care? Should not any intervention be to help families stay together rather than to break them up? The answer is negative only if you come from a position that completely ignores the nature of the relationship between babies and young children and their parents. If, in fact, you do not believe in family for children, only “care-givers”.

In the statements of the Child Welfare Service published since the public outcry regarding this case, there has been not a whisper of the humanity and compassion, the eagerness to explore every possibility of preventing the children’s traumatic removal from their parents that you would expect in such a case. They began, in a statement published on the website of the Norwegian Embassy, by stonewalling all inquiry with the empty re-iteration that all action was taken in accordance with applicable laws and policies and that the decision was not motivated by perceived cultural differences. They refused to disclose the facts of the matter hiding behind confidentiality laws. Whom is this confidentiality protecting? Not Abhigyan. Not Aishwarya. Not their parents. Only the Child Welfare Service and its head, Gunnar Toresen.

From some of the things one hears, one wonders whether the legislators, social workers and court officials involved in child protection services in Norway have any familiarity with the facts of bringing up a baby. Apparently, one of the findings against the mother was that she was depressed and confused. As a mother of similarly aged children myself, I can only ask what mother of a toddler and new born is not depressed, overwhelmed and confused? The demands of a toddler, often itself upset by the arrival of the new sibling, and a new born are relentless. Day and night the mother is put through a physical and emotional grind, with no breaks, no weekends off and no end-of-the-day free time. All of this is aggravated in societies where nannies and childminders are either not available, or simply beyond the means of most families. Personally, I believe that babies need their mother, no matter how depressed or confused she may be. But, if the Norwegian authorities are so concerned about depressed and confused mothers, why are they not helping families with childminders and housekeeping assistance? In the case of foreigners, how about offering to fly the parents’ extended family out to Norway and fund their stay there to help with the children?

How do you go from depressed mothers to foster care, in the name of child protection, without checking in first with grandparents, aunts or uncles? Why did the Norwegian courts consider it better in the children’s interest for them to be removed to a strange Norwegian foster home rather than be sent to their own grandparents’ home in India, when their grandparents appeared before the Norwegian courts to be allowed take them? Racism is too simple an answer. This is a system premised on a horrendous disavowal of family ties and bereft of any empathy with baby, child or mother. How can such an ideology be countenanced for child protection?

And this brings us to some questions about the people running the Norwegian Child Welfare Service. What is the background and history of its head, Gunnar Toresen? Are there only men in charge of the Child Welfare Service? What was Gunnar Toresen’s upbringing? Did he grow up with a mother and father present? Is his own experience only that of foster care? Does he have children? Is he married? Is he even living with the mother? How much has he seen first-hand of babies and toddlers growing up in their parents’ homes? Before being given the power to decide the break up a family, have Gunnar Toresen and his colleagues at the Child Welfare Service been educated and sensitized to the attachment of infants and toddlers to their parents, especially the mother; of the meaning of family in bringing up children? What about the competence of the foster parents? What kind of foster parents agree to take over the care of children in the circumstances of Abhigyan and Aishwarya, where there are willing parents, grandparents and uncles asking to do so? Why are they not asking these questions? And if these questions do not occur to them, are they competent to foster these children?

The laws applicable to this case are not just inhumane, but bizarre. Apparently the courts have ruled that the children will not have access to their parents for the next 18 years – except for a few hours each year. What is the logic of this provision? If access to the parents is so harmful, then why permit any at all? And if it is important, then what is the meaning of a few hours each year? Is that not doubly confusing and adding trauma upon trauma to the forcibly separated children? Are Norwegian child protection laws conscious that they are dealing with people, feelings and relationships or are they merely caught up in a chillingly mindless bureaucratic iteration of themselves?

Even assuming the allegations, why did the decision in appeal take four months? Is there not a serious denial of children’s rights, not to mention sheer cruelty, in a system that takes so long to decide whether babies will be allowed to remain with their mother? The average time in the developed world for deciding even commercial suits is three months. In international sporting events, arbitrations to decide disputes take place within a time span of twelve to twenty four hours. Why do the Norwegian courts take so long when it is matter of tiny vulnerable children and their distraught parents?

So those who speak of racism and cultural intolerance only skim the surface of what is happening here. The question to be asked is what grotesque conception of family, of babyhood, of motherhood is at work here? As civil rights and social welfare groups in India get more and more integrated into the politics and funding streams of their counter-parts in Europe and the United States, we in India, and particularly mothers, must start paying a lot more attention to what they are lobbying for in the name of our children. How much of our experience, our insight as mothers taking care of infants, is actually out there in the public domain informing and monitoring the debate about public child welfare institutions? How much attention is being paid to the real trials and tribulations of our work in mothering young children? And most importantly, how much worth is being given to the tremendous task we mothers perform in raising our young charges? It is no mean thing to host another body in your own. To give your body up to be split open by nature or cut open by the surgeon’s knife to bring forth a new life. It is no mean thing to cherish and care for a little being that cannot really reciprocate your attachment or know your effort. To give in unilaterally to your love for your baby, knowing that it will never remember this first stage of its life. Why is it assumed that a mother’s love is only incidental to the question of how children are to be brought up?

If women did not give themselves body and soul to bearing children, that would be the end of the human race. It is as simple as that. So what? Some would say. A deeply misanthropic response. Is that what is going on here? A quiet contempt for life? An unstated hatred of humanity? The case of the Bhattacharya children in Norway raises questions far more profound than the conflict of cultures – it is a battle between the joy of life and its very disturbing opposite.

(Suranya Aiyar is a lawyer and a mother. Those in Delhi can join a protest demanding the return of the children to their family in India. The protest will be held from 11 am to 5 pm, from 27 February to 2 March, opposite the Chankyapuri Police Station, near the Norwegian embassy.)

68 Comments leave one →
  1. Hamid A. permalink
    February 26, 2012 8:09 PM

    I couldn’t agree more with the general criticism of the Norwegian Child Welfare Service. Yet this article is so painfully heteronormative it’s difficult to read. It also essentializes women and motherhood. I’d expect to read something like this in Femina, not Kafila. I do hope you post my comment, as I’d like to read the author’s response, or those of your readers.

    • Suranya Aiyar permalink
      February 26, 2012 11:28 PM

      I’m going to respond, though I find the tone of this comment painfully sexist and patronising. Both in writing this piece and observing my own experience as a mother, questions of whether my understanding is heternormative or essentialises women and so on have occurred to me. In this context, there also arise questions about how one would understand surrogacy, adoption, in vitro fertilization, to name a few. I did not see these issues as being relevant to the plight of the Bhattacharyas and therefore did not touch upon them in this piece. However, these are legitimate and interesting questions in any discussion of motherhood, child raising and family. And our appreciation of these issues will be greatly enriched by an insight into the lived experience of different types of families. I cannot claim to have definitive answers myself, but I would assay that mothering can be learnt where it is not innate (after-all nature is only one half of the story of human kind – we learnt to fly, though we don’t have wings) but it cannot be learnt if it is not first acknowledged and we cant really have a productive conversation about this if we label every exploration into the complex, subtle, counter-intuitive and occasionally politically incorrect realm of our feelings and instincts as “normative-“ this and “essentialising-“ that.

    • February 27, 2012 1:26 AM

      Hamid,
      Sadly you are judging this article from a scholastic and indifferent point of view. If motherhood is essential, it is because the Indian family system subscribes it to a large scale. You are free to believe in hetero-normativity, however the context of child and their parents is devoid of you this understanding. I am sure you would also agree in the end these are beliefs and not science-hood to use them to make definitive judgements about a very personal issue of the family.

    • Jyoti Vig permalink
      March 25, 2012 12:06 AM

      I would like to congratulate the author on a very sensitive and persuasively argued case. I think if marital discord is an issue the welfare agency could’ve given the couple directives to seek counseling and a strong warning. Typically child welfare agencies come in only if marital discord leads to violence or disturbs the neighborhood. In case that was the issue it makes sense to censure the couple, even fine them but not take away thee kids. The parents should decide where the kids belong, they are not orphans and no state has the right to take them away from their biological parents without their consent.

  2. Ram Sharma permalink
    February 26, 2012 11:40 PM

    In many western countries such an intrusion of the State in individual’s life whould be condemned by the local non-government organizations and intellectuals.. It does not seem to be happening in Norway. While I would support the the protest being organized by the author of this post in New Delhi, it is unlikely to have an impact. In my opinion, an effective intervention of the Indian government is needed.

    • sameena zehra permalink
      February 27, 2012 2:31 AM

      ram-
      that intervention is more likely to happen, the more of a noise is made. so join the protest and get everyone you know to join it as well. there is power in numbers.

      suranya- your article has many unanswered questions- so that i’m not entirely sure what these parents did, and why the norwegian care system is being so obstreperous. it is essential to find out the answers to these questions- especially the salient ones that effect the children’s’ immediate welfare- why have they not been released to the care of their grandparents? why has all the appealing taken so long?

      i wish you luck with the protest and finding justice for these children.

  3. February 27, 2012 3:52 AM

    Bergen, Norway

    I disagree about the demonstrations in India not having any impact. On the contrary: The only thing that can help Norwegian victims of the CPS is publicity abroad. Why otherwise to you think the CPS and our other authorities try to frighten victims into silence? Who do they punish victims who tell the truth openly on the internet about the way the CPS has treated their families, punish them by bringing such publicising into court as an argument against the family? The CPS argues that the parents who want their children back and try to get help from public opinion or politicians, “ignore the needs of their children and put their own interests first, and are therefore not able to give their children care”.

    The only way to put a stop to the psycho-babble madness of “social welfare” as executed by the CPS – short of a physical, civil war – is to keep at it, make public all that this destructive agency does and all of what real science actually has to offer in the way of evidence – which is actually very, very much!

    I wrote an article (in Norwegian) a few years back called “Is biological relatedness unimportant in the lives of human beings?” I think I must make an effort to translate it into English and adapt it a little. Would this website be interested in my posting it if and when?

    Cheers from 60 degrees northern latitude! Not absolutely every Norwegian has forgotten the natural love between children and parents.

  4. Marcus permalink
    February 27, 2012 6:36 AM

    “Babyhood has its own unique set of needs – physical and emotional; its own personality, quite separate from adult needs and perceptions.”
    Yes. But I presume that you would agree that, if a set of parents were absolutely failing to meet such needs, then the child might need to be removed for its own safety and wellbeing. You don’t seem to consider that.

    “As a mother of similarly aged children myself, I can only ask what mother of a toddler and new born is not depressed, overwhelmed and confused?”
    Given that the Norwegian childcare services has not removed every child in Norway from their undoubtedly overwhelmed parents, one might be inclined to presume that in this particular case the depression could be a little more serious than the ups and downs all parents face? I think that you can be sure that child services workers can tell the difference between the normal difficulties of raising a child and a serious case of depression leading to incapacity to meet the basic needs of a child. That doesn’t make every decision they make correct, but your point is bordering ridiculous.

    “What is the background and history of its head, Gunnar Toresen? What was Gunnar Toresen’s upbringing? Did he grow up with a mother and father present? Is his own experience only that of foster care? Does he have children? Is he married? Is he even living with the mother? How much has he seen first-hand of babies and toddlers growing up in their parents’ homes?”
    This is absolutely ridiculous. What difference does any of this make? If he had been brought up in foster care himself then suddenly the decision made by the institution as a whole becomes correct or wrong or what?

    “Are there only men in charge of the Child Welfare Service?”
    Of the Ministry in charge of child welfare four of the administrative heads are men, four are women. At a municipal level I’d be shocked if there weren’t far more women than men in Child Welfare services. This is a gendered division of labour. Does that make everything good now? No. Then why raise silly things that you haven’t even bothered to find the answer to.

    To make clear, I don’t know whether the ‘correct’ decision has been made in this case. I can, however, surmise that it was not a decision taken lightly. I know plenty of people who work in childcare services and you would not believe the empathy they have with the kids they try to help. They work in difficult, sometimes heart-wrenching circumstances. They take no decision lightly. Sometimes the decision to leave a child with a family has backfired terribly and, on occasion, tragically. I wonder if – following your use of hypotheticals – the children had been left with the parents and something terrible had happened to one of them. Would that then be the inefficient Norwegian bureaucracy failing to act owing to terrible incompetence? That’s the other side of things you seem unprepared to even consider.

    As it is, this silly, ill-informed portrayal of a mindless robotic bureaucracy is frankly insultingly reductionist. There are complex issues in every case like this and, as such, it needs to be scrutinised and maybe challenged. But this kind of portrayal of childcare services – all of which is complete speculation on your part – is shameful. I’m sure painting the Norwegians as robotic, heartless homebreakers helps your cause, but it’s beneath being published on a site like Kafila that’s normally of high quality.

    • Shankar permalink
      February 27, 2012 12:04 PM

      It is ABSOLUTELY a question of mindless bureaucracy. It is a question of how much the state should meddle in the lives of people, even in the name of protecting children. Norwegians are obviously not used to debating such issues. That’s why India, Poland, Russia and other countries (not to mention the UN) are criticizing them for these absurd and cruel decisions.

    • Arild Holta permalink
      February 27, 2012 3:01 PM

      The whole thing is easy to understand: Is the child-industry based on research and facts. Or are there other considerations that count more. Try to tell a Norwegian child welfare-worker about high quality research that disproves what they do. Their reactions will be to inform you of his conviction as if it were truth. Regardless of whether it is belied by what you present. They have a strong belief in what they do and do not understand research-based evidence.

      • Marcus permalink
        February 27, 2012 8:22 PM

        What facts are you talking about? What high quality research? What on earth do you mean by “the child industry”??
        In terms of research and facts, this article had none of that. It’s high quality research was to insinuate that Toreson’s upbringing is apparently central to this decision.
        Everyone – including the Norwegians – are quite aware that keeping a child with its natural parents is in the best interests of all concerned except under extremely exceptional circumstances that threaten the immediate physical and psychological welfare of the child. If these particular circumstances were not exceptional, then yes, the children should not have been removed. However, no-one is talking about that because they don’t know what the specifics of this case are. This is because the Norwegians aren’t releasing the details to the public because – one would presume – if the suggestion of severe depression and incompetence are true it might be quite damaging for the mother/father. The authorities are right not to release that kind of detail just to satisfy interested observers like you or me.

      • suresh permalink
        February 28, 2012 12:55 AM

        This is because the Norwegians aren’t releasing the details to the public because – one would presume – if the suggestion of severe depression and incompetence are true it might be quite damaging for the mother/father. The authorities are right not to release that kind of detail just to satisfy interested observers like you or me.

        You say “if the suggestion of severe depression and incompetence are true..” But suppose it is not true. What then? How do we establish the truth when the facts relevant to the decision to take away the children are not released? Essentially what you seem to be saying is that the Norweigian child support service is more trustworthy than the Bhattacharyas.

        Personally, I don’t think such a rigidly dogmatic position should be adopted in a case involving foreigners. And for what it’s worth, if the suggestion of severe depression and incompetence are true, there are many Indians — myself included — who would support the Norweigian decision. Not all of us are blind nationalists.

      • Arild Holta permalink
        February 28, 2012 3:16 AM

        Marcus, you are spreading norwegian myths. These and other myths I have been working towards for over 20 years. Child Protection in the Nordic countries does not work. Research shows that the child care damages children. For example, Swedish, Danish and norwegian research. Over 6000 Danish children during child care made ​​it worse (group level) because that the child welfare authorities removed them from their parents. According to the Danish research. There is demonstrably anything with the ideology that is very wrong.

        Speaking about child welfare alleged secrets: The family has the documents. The documents containing the child welfare side of the case. Media has already used the child welfare side of the case. You’re too late with the propaganda you apparently belive on.

        You have not registered the report commissioned by the government: Magne Raundalen is head of the committee that rejects the biological principle. The report was delivered the government earlier this month. Norway rejects that children belong to parents. Norway rejects the family. Wake up!

  5. Kavita Krishnan permalink
    February 27, 2012 9:04 AM

    The Norwegian authorities have much to answer for, no doubt. Their action cannot be justified except if it was a case of serious cruelty or neglect, which on the face of it, it does not at all appear to be (and if it was, why don’t the Norwegian Child Welfare people just say so?).
    But I am deeply uncomfortable with some of the premises of this piece. For one thing, the subtext seems to be – we Indians care for ‘family’, while ‘the west’ only has an impersonal notion of ‘caregiver.’ I think these terms are terribly loaded. ‘Family’ – both in India and ‘the West’, implies huge social and ideological burdens for women. I find India’s ‘welfare’ mechanism nearly non-existent, and extremely dangerous where it does exist. Take the case of the Arya home that’s been in the news recently with allegations of widespread abuse: perhaps, just perhaps, such systematic abuse would not have been possible on this scale in a children’s home in Norway? Abuse – of kids, of women – within families in India, too, tends to be denied and swept under the carpet all too often. In protesting the Norway authorities’ high-handedness towards the Indian-origin family in question, lets not forget that we probably need Indian families to be up for greater scrutiny!
    Then, I’m not sure about this business about babies needing the biological mother’s care at all costs. Mothers do often feel conflicted, ambivalent, stressed towards babies. This article makes v little mention of fathers’ role in caring for and bonding with the baby. Moreover, let’s remember that babies and children are adopted – often by families that might speak an entirely different tongue, or of a different race. So, again, in being critical of the Norwegian authorities’ callousness in this case, in demanding justice for Abhigyan and Aishwarya and their parents, let us not fall back on essentialising biological ‘family’ and ‘mothering.’
    I plan to send this link to a couple of my women friends who recently became mothers, and one who is planning to adopt, to see what they feel about it.

    • Shankar permalink
      February 27, 2012 11:59 AM

      It’s possible you find that author’s approach too traditional. But the attitude of the Norwegian authorities seem to be that the children don’t need the biological parents at all. With regard to adoption, please to bring that in here. This case concerns children who have parents. Their parents haven’t given them up for adoption. It looks like you would like to see the parents being used as guinea pigs for your counter-agument to “essentialisation” of the biological family. So let me put it bluntly – if you feel like proving a point, then give up your own children!

  6. Kavita Krishnan permalink
    February 27, 2012 9:15 AM

    I should also add that I find the questions about Gunnar Toresen’s upbringing extremely objectionable. ‘Is he married, does he have children and is he ‘even’ living with the mother??!!’ So, only married people, with children, have a right to have anything to do with child welfare?! What about unmarried women? Single mothers? Single fathers? Gay couples with kids? And so on and so forth?

  7. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    February 27, 2012 10:04 AM

    An insightful critique of Child Protection Services, Norway by a Norwegian scholar, published in The Hindu

  8. Shankar permalink
    February 27, 2012 11:49 AM

    I don’t see anything wrong in vilifying the Norwegian authorities. There is absolutely NOTHING in this case which justifies the actions of the Norwegian child care authorities. And yes, I absolutely agree with the author that Indians should take a very close look at what kind of family models are being foisted on us by Western-funded so-called child welfare agencies.

    • Marcus permalink
      February 27, 2012 8:35 PM

      Given that you don’t know the full details of this case then I’m not sure how you can pretend to be so sure of yourself. You seem to have very opportunistically used a serious case in which there are allegations of significant child neglect to push through a frankly bizarre set of assertions around biological parenthood that have little to do with the case at hand. It is quite possible that the authorities made a bad decision here. Or perhaps not. The case deserves to be discussed, but what this has to do with us your hyperbolic rant of us giving up our children for adoption as guinea pigs is frankly bizarre. I know plenty of well-loved and well-adjusted adopted children. Sadly I know plenty of kids having a rough time with their biological parents. Does that prove something? Perhaps just that kids are best with parent/s of whatever sex, biologically related or not, who *happen to love them and wish to take care of them*.

      • Shankar permalink
        February 27, 2012 9:32 PM

        I don’t think you can replace biology as the basis of society, however much you may wish to try. I was making a general point, and I have stated that I am not against voluntary adoption. The matter of biological parentage is relevant to the arguments people have made here, but it is clear from your meaningless post that you neither understand how the outcome of this case stems from an abuse of state authority (which most Indian posters can see), as well as from a wrong ideological standpoint about the irrelevance of biology.

        As for the details of this particular case, I think there is enough information available for us to see the frivolous nature of the allegations against the parents – which is the reason for the outrage in India.

  9. Kavita permalink
    February 27, 2012 1:14 PM

    @Shankar ~ You seem to miss the point that I am not in any way defending the Norwegian authorities in this case. Certainly their approach calls for a comprehensive critique. I am just questioning the terms of this particular critique ~ because it subscribes to essentialist notions about family and biological motherhood. Just because separating kids from biological parents in THIS case is totally unjustified, does not mean that family privacy and biological primacy prevail in every other case.

    • Shankar permalink
      February 27, 2012 2:23 PM

      @Kavita, let me make myself clear. I am not against voluntary adoption. On the other hand, what you term as “essentialist” notions of biological motherhood are determined by our existence as a biological species. It is fashionable in some social science-circles to argue that biology is not fundamental to our existence, but that view is becoming increasingly difficult to hold in light of the a more Darwinist approach which is grounded in a scientific reality. That reality is that biological parents are best suited to bring up their own offspring because the children are the carriers of the parents’ genes. Therefore, adoption can be considered for a child who does not have parents – in an imperfect world that will happen. Familial privacy and biological primacy should and will prevail in every other case. In case the parents have committed a criminal act against the child, then the parents should be tried in proper criminal court, not subject to preposterous value judgements, as in the case of the couple in Norway.

      • Nivedita Menon permalink*
        February 27, 2012 5:57 PM

        Shankar, your response awakens every discomfort I felt with the original post’s valorizing of biological motherhood. I’m in complete agreement with Kavita that we need to arrive at a critique of the powerful state’s overwhelming authority to decide on one (culturally determined) kind of child-rearing as the only permissible one, without falling back on “biological parents know best.” We can perfectly well imagine children brought up lovingly by communities of people, not necessarily by a nuclear family unit of biological parents alone. Indeed, this pattern has not died out in all parts of the world.
        You claim that the “more Darwinist approach” “is grounded in a scientific reality. That reality is that biological parents are best suited to bring up their own offspring because the children are the carriers of the parents’ genes.”
        But there is no “scientific reality” to this – it is merely an outdated assumption, quite unproved. On the other hand, countless examples of child sexual abuse by biological fathers and other biologically related men suggests the opposite. And equally, adoptive parents and parents who go in for surrogacy seem to love their children too. In the case of surrogacy, the surrogate mother gives up the child who carries her biological attributes, in a commercial transaction. Biology as the origin of love and care is an idea that has seen its day.

      • Shankar permalink
        February 27, 2012 6:08 PM

        No, Nivedita. You call for a critique of of the powerful state’s overwhelming authority, but fail to see that it is precisely your YOUR of thinking that is behind this barbaric act of state kidnapping in Norway. It is YOUR assumption of parenthood not being grounded in biology which is outdated. If you are uncomfortable which something as fundamental as this, and wish to experiment with dispensing with biology, I suggest that you use yourself and your own children as guinea pigs. To care for one’s own offspring is an instinct. It is not something which is learned through culture. If you cannot realize something as fundamental as this, then you are actually justifying the kind of violence which the Indian couple has been subject to. It is the BIOLOGICAL family (nuclear or joint family) which cares for its offspring. Adoption is the exception to the rule, it does not justify dispensing with biology.

    • Shankar permalink
      February 27, 2012 2:31 PM

      For the record, Kavita – biology does not imply marriage. Marriage is a social custom which can be dispensed with. Biology cannot be wished away.

  10. Shankar permalink
    February 27, 2012 6:49 PM

    @Nivedita, I must add to my earlier post that it is also the marginal phenomena of child abuse by biological parents which you allude to, which is behind the ideology of dispensing with biology altogether. Child abuse by biological parents is marginal compared to how many children are abused by people NOT related to the children. If you regard every parent as a potential abuser, then you WILL end up with a system of “child protection” like in the Nordic countries. I therefore think that you will not get far with your critique of state authority, when you argue from the same principles as the “child protection” services in the Nordic countries.

    There is today a growing body of evidence to which links child abuse with non-biological parenthood. A lot of this work has been done by evolutionary psychologists. Not just that, many problems connected with adoption have until today not been discussed openly. The media in Western countries reports more and more often of failed adoptions — of couples returning children to adoption agencies because they cannot handle the children. While adoption may be a good solution for a child who has been abandoned or whose parents are dead, it is not a stress-free upbringing for a child to know that he/she is adopted. Children in these situations think of meeting their biological parents, and many even do make contact when they are older. Biology is a FACT – humans cannot be programmed to become attached to anyone in the way the so-called Attachment theories which were fashionable in the 1960’s and 70’s proposed.

  11. Shankar permalink
    February 27, 2012 10:12 PM

    Suranya Aiyar, Let me congratulate you on an excellent article! There are posters here who are uncomfortable with the mention of women being mothers. But you regard this action by the so called Child Protection services in Norway as “a horrendous disavowal of family ties and bereft of any empathy with baby, child or mother.” You ask how such an ideology can be countenanced for child protection?

    Let me therefore congratulate you on not holding back your feelings in writing about how a mother, a parent would see this horrific act of being separated from her/his children! I don’t know if we have reached a time when even the simplest familial bonds which have shaped our culture and society must be subject to hollow intellectual casuistry, but it is certainly liberating to read a piece of writing which is straight from the heart!

    Indeed, the first question that comes to mind when we read about this horrific action taken against the Indian family for such insignificant reasons is – Who could have done such a thing? What kind of people are they? Are they not parents themselves? But one finds no answer for the lack of empathy shown by some people in positions of authority – perhaps it has always been this way. In the belief that they are right, and in order to keep their position of authority, people have done horrendous things to others – not heeding their consciences, and not heeding pleas for mercy, clemency and fairness.

    It is right and noble to remember that we are humans – biological beings with feelings. The strongest bonds that are formed are those between a parent and his/her child – this is the very foundation of civilization, and it will continue to be this way for as long as humankind exists. To even attempt to shake this bedrock of our existence will bring us misery and disaster.

  12. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    February 28, 2012 5:14 PM

    Shankar, you have come in with 9 comments out of a total of 29, stating again and again your belief that biological bonds are the foundation of human civilization. Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much…
    Let me reiterate that as feminists many of us believe it possible not to be trapped between the rock of biological determinism and the hard place of a bureaucratic state when it comes to alternative ways of child-rearing. This means that we need to be able to recognize the biological family unit as often the basis for extreme violence, precisely because of the fraying and/or delegitimization of all other possibilities of human community than the heterosexual conjugal family unit. And yes, other forms of child rearing than the individualized, feminized and privatized system celebrated as natural today, have existed throughout history.
    Let me also reiterate what Kavita said – that in this particular instance, we do see the injustice of the situation. But I believe this has been made possible particularly because of the vocal critiques from within Scandinavia, of the oppressiveness and coerciveness of the super “welfare” state.
    I may add that these critiques from within Norway and other countries of the region make me proud to be part of a larger community that is not trapped in the nation-state, because the other element of this situation that bothers me is Indian nationalist jingoism.
    “Indians care about our children, the West does not etc”. Please.
    We drive blithely past hungry and shivering street children at traffic lights, we turn a blind eye to the hundreds of missing children every year until hit on the face with a Nithari kaand, we employ little children to look after our own children and keep them hungry, unschooled and overworked.
    If you only care about the “biological child” produced from your seed or egg, there is nothing “noble” about it (to quote Shankar), and if this so-called love is the “very foundation of civilization” that explains everything about the breathtakingly immoral and unjust universe we all participate in.

    • Shankar permalink
      February 28, 2012 6:38 PM

      Nivedita,
      You probably can’t see how it is that it is precisely your disparaging view of biological parenthood which has led to the kind of super welfare state which you think you can criticize. Let me put it simply – if biology means nothing, and biological instincts do not exist in your view of the world which rejects both human emotions and science – then you really have NO basis to defend this poor Indian family. As for the other Norwegian posters, I think that if you take the trouble to read what Arild Holta and Skanland have posted, you will find that they are also in agreement about the primacy of biological ties. So as far as your imagined fellowship with posters from other nations goes, I don’t think you should assume that they will necessarily hold opinion with you. Perhaps it is because you choose to argue from a self-avowed feminist perspective that you cannot see any other reality – even the simple fact that parents give birth to their children and care for them, is for you a contemptible untruth, which you do not like to hear spoken out loud.

  13. February 29, 2012 8:53 AM

    I’m sorry Shankar, but do you know there are colours other than black and white? And I’m not speaking only of grey; I’m speaking of a whole rainbow of possibilities, say the queer family that adopts a child. Are you saying you have ‘scientific proof’ that their bonds are weaker? Are you factoring in divorces among couples with children, lifelong property disputes and jealousy between parents and children or between siblings, parents beating children, sometimes grievously, children rebelling violently against their parents, fratricide, patricide (practised in royal families throughout history)? What right to do you have to say that any of these truths is less true than the pristine thing called biological bond you are speaking of? Yes, blood ties are compelling and strong, and yes, perhaps some of their force comes from biological impulses – the oft-repeated claim that we seek above all else to reproduce as a species may have some truth in it. But the ‘biological bond’ involves a whole range of behaviour that we would be loathe to own up to as exemplary. Further, humans are also complicated historical and cultural products, so the lines between nature and nurture are constantly being blurred. Even Simone de Beauvoir’s classic The Second Sex – read by many as definitive admission by a feminist of the primacy of biology – is in fact loaded with such a mind-boggling variety of facts regarding human and animal behaviour so as to make any simplistic conclusions impossible.

    By the way, the field of evolutionary psychology that you have flashed as a trump card is in fact a massive discipline with huge and ongoing internal debates and disagreements. Truth is we don’t have the sort of conclusive proof we would need to discard the role of upbringing and socialisation. It is feminists who among others committed to a less violent, less hierarchical world that began to ask questions and experiment with living arrangements. It is also feminists who have led the most innovative campaigns against patriarchy masquerading as the State or the Family. Including against the welfare State and the socialist State. No, you prefer your potted history and your neat classifications, and your classification functions on the dualism of a norm (biological family) and an aberration (anything else). What is ‘biology’ anyway? Define its limits please, so we can know once and for all. For instance, right now I am seriously put off by your tone. Is that a biological instinct or my education?

    • nisha george permalink
      March 2, 2012 7:57 AM

      I am glad Suraniya Aiyar wrote this article.This case has been very disturbing for two reasons.First that it invoves the lives of children and very young children at that.Second that it happens in a developed european country and the perpeterators are the state mechanism. You would think that state mechanisms in such countries are evolved and scientific.

      India and Indians are hardly the best upholders of child rights. However the reports we received about what happened to these children seem to say that the toddler was noticed to have ‘ erratic behaviour’ at his play school.Child welfare was informed .They made once a week visits to the home over 4 weeks. They then decided the parents were unfit and took the children away .One was a toddler taken away from school with no expanation offered to him.One was an infant who was breast feeding.The first court that reviewed their case said that the was no evidence of abuse and that this seperation was not in the best interest of the children.This was then overturned on appeal by the chid welfare deparment.

      I do not think that Gunnar Toresens marital / other background deeply matters.But the only bottom line is WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD? Is it in the best interest of a breast feeding bay to be seperated from it’s mother in the lack of any evidence of abuse.Any pediatrician woud tell you no.Is it in the best interest of a chid to be taken away to stay with strangers with no explanation given .Again the answer would be no.Disregarding all the cultural mismatch maybe the mother had post partum depression.Is this the best way to handle the entire situation.Defenitely not.A definite alternative would be to provide support, have somebody from child welfare stay and help out. Check the mother to see if she needs treatment / support. All very possible with the children staying at home and the family unit intact. Does Norway have the financial resources for such an arrangement . Defenitely.

      The article by the professor from Norway is very telling and shocking.My wishes with her as she deals with the system within Norway.My prayers with the children and their parents .I am glad people with political power like Brinda Karat have taken this up. Children are very vulnerable and this entire experience can affect them detrimentally. However children also have a strange amount of resilience too. So my prayers with Abighyan and Aiswarya and their parents and grandparents.

  14. Kris permalink
    March 9, 2012 2:36 AM

    Brilliant Article!! I heard your briliant speech in the TV show on CNN IBN and very poignant and touches upon key relevant and crucial issues…

    Kindly ignore the rest of the critical comments and definitely the intransigent Norwegian….

  15. Ramesh permalink
    March 13, 2012 12:49 PM

    This is a very important discussion because we are constantly being bombarded by news about how excellent the Western countries are in their practice of human rights. This whole matter shows how low a country like Norway is ready to stoop in order to justify the most blatant abuse of power and rights of individuals. Not only that, they claim to be “defending” children in the process!

    The whole of India is following this case very closely. In light of this case, we should be very careful about what ideas Western-funded NGOs are trying to introduce into India.

    • March 13, 2012 3:30 PM

      The old ideals of the West are now being destroyed by countries like Norway. Norway has “democratic communism”. The country has oil wealth to create anything the government wants. It gives the government too much power. It is no longer the “old liberal” state.

  16. avinash permalink
    March 13, 2012 3:13 PM

    I had seen the debate on this matter on Times Now twice. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat was also present on one occassion.

    The reason cited was that the couple were feeding the children with hands and making them sleep with them in the same bed. This is the latest news on the issue:

    Indian kids: Norway asks for legal guarantee

    http://www.newkerala.com/news/2011/worldnews-170972.html

  17. Rakesh permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:20 PM

    Suranya, you write here “Why is it assumed that a mother’s love is only incidental to the question of how children are to be brought up?”.

    This is the most relevant comment in this entire discussion. In light of the recent developments of this case, it looks like the Norwegian child services have succeeded in destroying a family. They have driven a mother to what sounds like a complete breakdown. They have succeeded in pitting the parents against each other.

    Will all those who are themselves parents, not least the feminist writers who write on Kafila, at least defend the poor mother Sagarika from this insensitive attack from the “welfare” state of Norway? Is this how a welfare state is supposed to work?

    • March 20, 2012 4:35 PM

      It is a very good observation by you. Just as child welfare act against Norwegian and foreign families. Divide and conquer.

  18. Kavita Krishnan permalink
    March 20, 2012 10:23 PM

    I hope Shankar and the author of the article read these new facts trickling in, that show that the matter isn’t as clear cut and black/white as they presumed. Genuine problems on the family side (it’s ok to admit, surely that biological parents can make mistakes, in fact we shouldn’t put the onus for ‘perfection’ on mothers), and cultural insensitivity in handling this complex case on part of Norwegian authorities…

    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3013551.ece

    http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3013872.ece

  19. Rakesh permalink
    March 22, 2012 12:57 AM

    Perhaps I was wrong in thinking that anyone who called herself a feminist would sympathize with a mother who has had her children taken away from her. If feminists dislike the idea of motherhood because they feel that motherhood somehow demeans them, then it never occurred to me that the same feminists may even revel at the plight of another woman having to live with the trauma of having to give up her motherhood.

    Having gone through the posts in details, I would like to comment on this particular matter:
    I still don’t see any reason for the children to be taken away from the Indian family. After the situation that the family has been reduced to, any family would broken up.

    So it is ultimately a question of what kind of powers the state should have – even to protect its minor citizens. It is only when the definition of abuse is made so wide and even vague that the state machinery with its vested interests begins to cast its net so wide that every slight domestic problem is seen as a potential for child abuse. This is evidently what is happening in Norway and other “developed” countries as well. The victims are often unsuspecting foreigners with little knowledge of the local language and laws.

    News articles:
    After India, Russians protest against Norway’s child services:

    Tens of children dream to escape from Norway

  20. Dr. Shalini Grover permalink
    March 22, 2012 9:14 AM

    This is in light of the comment that Kavita Krishnan has put up on March 20th. Kindly see the lead opinion in today’s Hindu by Vaiju Naravane. She has interviewed a Norwegian Human Rights Lawyer who has looked at the Bhattacharya Dossier. The Lawyer has completely exposed the corruption of the Child Welfare Services, indicating that the Bhattacharya case is one of grave injustice. This is a must read.
    Also in yesterday’s Hindu, Anurup Bhattacharya has clarified that he does not want a separation from his wife and that they are under great pressure as a couple. On CNN-IBN he appeared last night on television repeating this and stressing that the couple desperately want their children back.

    • Kavita Krishnan permalink
      March 22, 2012 11:36 AM

      It isn’t my case that the CWS of Norway is justified in all that it has done. What is emerging is a complex situation in which the parents and kids were certainly having problems and needing help – but the manner and method of help provided by CWS ended up aggravating the problems. The thing is, that in the light of what is emerging, we just don’t have easy villains anymore in the case. Neither can we talk, as the article by Suranya Aiyer does, easily of the CWS intervention as some sort of westernised assault on biological maternal love and Indian motherhood. Mothers and fathers can experience problems, and even inflict violence or emotional damage on each other and their kids. They may be out of their depth on many occasions. The thing is, that the CWS’ cultural insensitivity and high-handedness might have compounded the problems rather than helped. I am not even sure ‘bring them back to Indian soil’ is the unproblematic and only demand. The self-righteous nationalists who have been reprimanding feminists for failing to feel for mothers, should ask themselves: if the kids are brought back, will they and their parents really get help here in India? Or will we – govt and society- leave the mother and father to fend for themselves, coping with depression, mutual discord, the son’s medical problems and all else without any support systems? I am sure even the parents, while wanting the kids back, and rightly so, are worried about how they will cope (as the kids’ uncle has said to a paper, wondering if he will be able to provide the care the boy is getting in foster care in Norway).
      The parents’ problems don’t make them bad people. Norway CWS’ concern for the kids in light of the parents’ problems too does not make them villains. However, the parents need to face up to their problems, and the Norway CWS need to face up to that fact that they got many cultural nuances wrong, and they sat in judgement on the parents rather than getting the parents on board, and truly helping them care better for their kids.
      I wonder what Solomonic verdict the proponents of ‘mother knows best’ and ‘feminists don’t understand motherhood’ will give, if the parents are unable to reconcile and do break up: who should have custody of the kids?! The father or the mother?

  21. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    March 22, 2012 8:03 PM

    Rakesh Shukla on infochange a few days ago:
    Any attempt to look in a balanced manner at the issues involved in the saga of two Indian children, Aishwarya and Abhigyan, taken from their parents in May 2011 at the ages of one month and two years respectively, by the Norwegian Child Welfare Agency involves a lowering of the emotional temperature. The construct of ‘warm, perfect Indian’ versus ‘flawed, cold Norwegian’ (read: western) childrearing practices does not enable us to do justice to the serious concerns thrown up by the tussle between the parents and social services. Read the piece here.

  22. Dr. Shalini Grover permalink
    March 26, 2012 9:30 AM

    I am posting three new/latest links from the Hindu, that put the Bhattacharya narrative in perspective, chronologically and otherwise. In my opinion it is not constructive to just focus on the marital problems of this couple ( as many in the public are doing) and to leave out the larger framework in which they find themselves. This family has experienced extreme pressure and trauma. Marianne Skaland who has much experience of working with families who have been scrutinized/ subjected to the Child Protection Services can verify that couples/mothers often do not come out of such situations and may even develop suicidal tendencies.

    As an anthropologist who has studied counseling for many years (sorry I am being immodest here but I have a book that deals with marital problems in-depth), given the right help this family can sort there problems out. I know of hundreds of worst cases where families have come to a solution, and have overcome the trauma. Private counseling in India may be more expensive and requires a certain degree of self-motivation but it is at-least free from larger bureaucracies.

    Meanwhile while the public is asking questions about Sagarika’s state of mind, I actually think she does not deserve this kind of stigmatization. She has been very isolated and has not been given the right kind of medical attention.

    Three articles from the Hindu.

    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3155633.ece

    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3155621.ece

    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/article3206919.ece

    • March 26, 2012 8:18 PM

      Child Welfare is harmful. It was most recently documented in 2011 in Danish research. Denmark has the same type of child care as Norway. The research found on CRI’s website:
      http://www.sfi.dk/resum% C3% A9_tidligere_anbragte_som_unge_voksne-10248.aspx
      Symptomatic of our “academic culture” and the mainstream, researchers try to explain away or rationalize away the unwanted results of research.

  23. Dr. Shalini Grover permalink
    April 13, 2012 5:28 AM

    As The Norway Custody Battle comes to court on the 17th of April in Norway, insightful articles by Suranya Aiyer in the Hindustan Times, probes the confidentiality clause, while Marianne Skanland’s article in Pravasi, questions the ‘Attachment Disorder’ syndrome.

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/editorial-views-on/Platform/Chopping-and-changing-to-suit-its-ends/Article1-839646.aspx

    http://www.pravasitoday.com/the-curious-case-of-child-protection-in-norway-2

  24. Ganga permalink
    May 14, 2012 2:45 AM

    “What about Abhigyan’s feelings at suddenly being surrounded by people speaking only in Norwegian, of which he does not understand a word? What about how he felt seeing only these big, white-skinned people babbling at him in a strange tongue with no sign of mama, hour after hour, day after day? Does a three-year-old see an adult of a different race as another version of the brown-skinned Bangla speaking adults he was familiar with, or are they a bit alien to him – is it like being flown to Mars on a spaceship and being left alone with the Martians?”

    This piece of writing is very VITRIOLIC and RACIST. Yes, racism is racism even if it is directed against Caucasians, who are traditionally accused of indulging in it. How would we (Indians) react if a white person had written the following :

    “What about Adam’s feelings at suddenly being surrounded by people speaking only in Hindi, of which he does not understand a word? What about how he felt seeing only these little, brown-skinned people babbling at him in a strange tongue with no sign of mama, hour after hour, day after day? Does a three-year-old see an adult of a different race as another version of the white-skinned Norwegian speaking adults he was familiar with, or are they a bit alien to him – is it like being flown to Mars on a spaceship and being left alone with the Martians?”

    I am sure most of us would have a huge issue with us indiana being equated to aliens by, say, a Norwegian, so I am surprised that none of us have called Suranya put on her EXTREME reverse racism that dehumanizes and alienizes individuals of another race.

    What, really, does the color of the skin or the physical make up or the language “babbled” in by the foster parents have anything to do with the issue on hand ? Would Ms.Aiyar not have a problem (or, maybe, have less of a problem) with a child being placed in foster care IF the foster parents were the same race as, and “babbled” in the same tongue as, the foster child’s natural parents ??

    While I do believe that a child’s best place is in the bosom of his or her biological parents, I cannot agree with this racist rant that claims that a natural parent is the ONLY one that can do a good job at child rearing. This is a broad stroke of the brush, given that some biological parents are “parents”, solely in name. Our own Hindu mythology praises Nanda and Yashodha as being exemplary parents to Krishna, while Hiranyakashipu is reviled as Evil Personified due to the misdeeds perpetrated against his own young child, Prahalada.

    Furthermore, I am at a loss to understand how Gunnar’s marital status or parenting status matter. Does one HAVE to be a married, biological parent in order to understand what is, what is not, in the best interests of a child – ANY child ?

    • May 15, 2012 1:30 AM

      It’s not racism. It’s empathy. It is empathy in the child’s experience.
      Sincerely, 120 kg Norwegian white-skinned babbling alien. ;)

      • Ganga permalink
        May 15, 2012 7:13 AM

        Please give me references and citations to the sources used to back up the claim that children are traumatized if / when surrounded solely by people of a different race than their biological children.

        Furthermore, the Bhattacharya kids were not unfamiliar with Caucasians. Aishwarya was only 6 months old when she was placed in foster care, and most children younger than 10 months are unable to distinguish between the strangers and near-and-dear. Stranger anxiety normally presents in infants around the age of 10 months, so the question of Aishwarya being traumatized by the Norweigians does not arise.

        Abhigyan, at 3 years, had apparently spent 20 months in Norway, after moving there at at age 14 months. He is mentioned as having attended preschool at Stavenger for several months prior to being placed in foster care. So, i find it hard to believe that he had never met a Norweigian in his entire life or had never heard Norweigian being “babbled” around him, so much so that he was absolutely traumatized at being suddenly surrounded by these “aliens” “babbling” in an alien tongue (unless the claim is that he went to a school that was run by Indians and attended solely by Indian kids – a claim that i would be hard-pressed to believe).

        I am amused at how adults – with little to no knowledge of developmental psychology – attempt to psychoanalyst a toddler and attribute adult qualities & reactions to these children with little or no scientific basis.

        Finally, racism is racism is racism. Suranya could have made the exact point – even if scientifically or logically inaccurate – with a lot more finesse by choosing the appropriate words. I am always leary of people who resort to skin color based arguments to further their rhetoric that X, Y or Z is the ONLY way of doing A, B, or C.

        • May 15, 2012 5:02 PM

          (Sorry for my bad English.)

          1. Children may fear among people who are different from what they are accustomed to. When I was one year old, my mother and I met a smiling big dark lady. She said the white small children were often afraid of her. Based on your definition toddlers were racists.

          2. Children who grow up in child care have poorer prognoses than children who grow up with resource poor parents. There is enough research that shows this.

          3. Psychology is not very empirical. Neither the clinical psychology or psychology of children’s upbringing. You then also ignore evolutionary psychology.

          4. For example, in Wikipedia, you can read about the “Cinderella effect”. Children who grow up in non-biological structures, have much poorer prognoses. It is explained by “Kin selection”.

          5. Love is primarily biologically determined. Therefore, it is torture to separate parents and children. A birth (and breastfeeding) is a “bath” in the “love hormone” oxytocin. Sometimes parents lose consciousness and falls, when child welfare collect their children. It does not happen for foster parents who are fired. Not even for stepparents. Parents have very strong feelings. Biological contingent.

          Conclusion: biology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology and history must be used. Non-empirical psychology that are not in this context, can not explain the feelings between parents and children.

          Neither ideology!

  25. Ganga permalink
    May 16, 2012 5:18 AM

    1. Please do not put words in my mouth. Stranger anxiety is common amongst children and no one would equate it with racism. I am talking about the language and opinions expressed by Suranya here and have no idea why you would infer that my arguments pertain to, or are relavent to, children.

    2. What research ? When were these studies carried out ? By whom ? What was the sample size ? What were the duration of these studies ? How long after conclusion were the subjects followed up on ? Kindly provide sources and citations as I am interested in reading more about these studies.

    3. IF your Point No. 2 is valid, then your Point No. 3 is invalid. If you are dismissing the entire field of Psychology as a “pseduo science” to support some of your opinions, then you cannot cherry pick a branch of the field as being solely scientific to support others. In any case, I do not understand how evolutionary psychology fits into this discussion, nor is it my intention to start in a debate about whether psychology is empirical or not on this forum.

    4. Kin selection theory has nothing to do with foster care or adoptive parenting. Rather it is a furtherance of the argument that organisms prefer the propagation of their own genes versus the propagation of others’. Is is solely about reproduction, not about caregiving, It appears that you are extrapolating the Kin Selection theory to support the idea that biological parents will be MORE attached to their offspring (as their survival mean a continuation of the parents’ genes) than adoptive parents raising non-genetically related offspring. In theory, this might sound possible.

    But adoption and step parenting have happened in the human species for thousands of years, and refute your theory soundly. Jesus had a step father and Gautama Budhha was raised by his nurses under the supervision of his step mother. Rama was raised by his step mother despite his own mother being very much alive and present, and his wife Seetha was an adopted child of unknown parentage. Krishna is the poster child for foster parenting while his own BIOLOGICAL uncle left no stone unturned to have him killed. Augustus Cesar was raised his grandmother’s brother and he, in turn, ran a royal orphanage – the members of this orphanage were later famous personalities known to History and posterity. Elizabeth I and Edward VI of England were both raised by their stepmother, Katherine Parr and were none the worse for it.

    Kashibai, the wife of Baji Rao I, raised both her stepson and her husband’s nephew after the deaths of their respective mothers.

    I could go on and on and on but will stop here. My point in entering this discussion was not to toot the horn in favor of one form of parenting or child rearing but to condemn the author’s hyperbolic dismissal of another race solely in the basis of skin

    It takes a lot to parent a child who does not carry your genes, and adoptive / step / foster parents must be commended for their efforts and dedication, not condemned and accused for doing what very few human beings have hearts and minds for.

    5. So can one just not love one’s spouse or an inlaw or a friend or an adoptive child ? International adoptions are bogus, too? Your posting is very hurtful but I will say no more in the matter except that you are entitled to your opinion.

    Opinions do not make FACTS. Opinions are not gospel truth. They are just opinions and you are welcome to (and have the right to express) your own. Good day

    • May 16, 2012 10:08 PM

      (Bad English again:)
      You must set the same standards to your own claims. I note that you play on religious feelings. Anyone can generalize based on single events. Why not start with the research mentioned in the debate. Or by checking what you find through the debate reference to Wikipedia.

      For the sake of the case (not for doctrinaire anti-biology people):
      Daly and Wilson’s research

      http://www.mhskanland.net/page62/page131/page131.html

      Take a look also at this:

      http://web.missouri.edu/~flinnm/pdf/Flinn&England2003.pdf

      Page 109:
      ‘The family is of paramount importance in a child’s world. Throughout human evolutionary history, parents and close relatives provided calories, protection, and information necessary for survival, growth, health, social success, and eventual reproduction. The human mind is therefore likely to have evolved special sensitivity to interactions with family caretakers, particularly during infancy and early childhood.’

      And much more …

      I and some others have collected nearly 150 articles / links about various research on the family. Unfortunately, it is in Norwegian. It’s hard for me to debate in English.

      (Since religion is mentioned: I see no contradiction between creation and evolution. As many do.)

  26. Suranya Aiyar permalink
    May 30, 2012 11:24 AM

    Here is the story of the much maligned Sagarika Bhattacharya in her own words. She might not have found herself in her current awful position if she had had half the erudition and savvy of Kafila readers, especially those who are living abroad and well-integrated in their adopted countries.Today she finds herself as alone in India as she was in Norway. No one wants to touch the “psycho-mom” of the narrative spun by the Norwegian authorities and her estranged husband. Is she psycho or scapegoat?: http://www.pravasitoday.com/norway-nri-kids-row-the-untold-story-by-sagarika-bhattacharya

    Suranya Aiyar

  27. Romesh permalink
    September 26, 2012 3:29 PM

    Pravasi Today has received a number of contributions on this subject, long after the mainstream media lost interest. Here are articles which tell a woeful tale of censorship, repression and forced medication of families and their children in that squeakily clean Nordic country.

    On media censorship:

    http://www.pravasitoday.com/the-media-gives-victims-social-services-the-silent-treatment-arild-holta

    Victimization of immigrants:

    http://www.pravasitoday.com/norwegian-child-protection-hits-immigrants-hard-aage-simonsen

    Forced medication of children:

    http://www.pravasitoday.com/more-discipline-medicating-schoolchildren-norway-2

  28. sharon permalink
    November 5, 2012 10:56 AM

    I dont get it – what is being debated?? Surely children actually better off with their abusive biological parents than with a happy supportive adoptive family? Incidentally, the children a now with their uncle in Asansol – do you think the children with special needs will get the care they need there?

    • November 6, 2012 9:22 PM

      Illusion 1: “abusive biological”
      It’s about stealing children from their parents. Without good reason.

      Illusion 2: “happy supportive adoptive family”
      Statistics and research show that this is not true. It does not go well with the stolen children.

      Maybe an illusion 3: “the children a now with their uncle in Asansol”
      Child welfare was almost forced to do so. They did not want to give the children away.

      Maybe illusion 4 and 5: “do you think the children with special needs will get the care they need there”
      A) “Special needs” is often partially fabricated. Or it is created by the so-called child protection. Children are harmed by being stolen from their parents.
      B) Kids do not get adequate care when they can not have close ties to their parents.

      The illusions are typical of naive faith in governments and authorities.

  29. Shalini Grover permalink
    November 8, 2012 10:11 PM

    Indian authorities have asked the uncle/foster care family to hand over the children to their mother. They see the Norway decision as a grave miscarriage of justice, and that the mother is more than capable of looking after her children. See the below link:

    http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/immediate-release-norwegian-child-confiscation-case/

  30. Suranya Aiyar permalink
    November 10, 2012 12:27 PM

    In solidarity with Sagarika and all the other mothers who have been so cruelly torn apart from their children in lakhs of similar cases. See this video.

    Any feminism that scoffs at a mother’s love is of no use to women. Here is a real women, with a real love for her children and it is no answer to the injustice to her to theorise about whether validating the feelings of a mother somehow undermines the case for feminism. Feminism cannot demand that women should deny their feelings as mothers or suppress the way they experience their bond with their children. It is true that motherhood has been used by the patriarchy to repress women. But the culprit here is patriarchy and not motherhood. Feminism too has been used by the patriarchy against women. That is why you have the pathetic spectacle here of career feminists commenting in glee when lies were spread of Sagarika’s fitness as a mother. Whom did those lies serve? Sagarika? A woman fighting for justice? A woman fighting to be heard? Or the tyranny of the great Indian patriarchy that will not give the first right in children to mothers, that allows the mother rights only through the father and that permits women to be mothers of their own children only at the pleasure of their husbands and in-laws. People here should update their ideas of feminism instead of parroting outdated ideas of the seventies. Otherwise they are not feminists. Just bigots.

    • sangeetha permalink
      November 16, 2012 2:05 AM

      Agree with you. Our society has a strange attitude towards women who stand up for their rights. Sagarika fell foul of the regressive society around her when she refused to give in to their demands. Nothing in the video link posted shows any signs of lack of care. Interestingly, there is an another video link that was posted soon after she was awarded custody in India, which was apparently recorded against her will during a visitation with her children. Do our laws not protect an individual against the violation of privacy ?

      • Prachi permalink
        November 17, 2012 11:18 AM

        I dont understand why people cannot see something so obvious. Sagarika has been wronged twice, first by Norway, then her husband and inlaws. I dont understand why some people are tolerating this abuse towards her.

        I just saw the second video, sangeetha talked about, the children are noisy only because they are in an unfamiliar setting. Shouldn’t the uncle make sure the kids visit the mother often enough so they familiarize themselves with the mother.It was his duty towards the children if he loved them, to keep them aware of theirs mothers warmth and love.- whatever may be his personal issues.
        Why is the camera man trying to tell that something is “fishy”? Exactly whats the intent?

        I will hold Norway responsible for forcing the couple to sign such an agreement where the mothers rights are the mercy of her in laws.

        Is it true that in India, even when parents voluntarily give up their child for adoption, they are allowed some time to change their minds , even after signing papers. On the same grounds, Sagarika deserves to change her mind on the papers she signed.

  31. November 10, 2012 7:19 PM

    As my wife, Turid, said:
    “Feminists have no right to tell me how I should live. It is oppression.”

    Kathrine Haugen has created and contributed to several famous films in Norway. She plans to make three films against child welfare abuse. (God help her! It is not easy in Norway!) She justifies this by saying that she is a feminist. Modern feminism does not suppress mothers!

    Suppression of mothers is obviously not feminine.

  32. Suranya Aiyar permalink
    January 11, 2013 12:01 PM

    To anyone still interested. She got her her kids back yesterday :) A mother vindicated!

  33. aiyars permalink
    January 11, 2013 12:06 PM

    That’s her in her moment of triumph.

  34. November 30, 2013 12:17 AM

    Also native Norwegians fear badly the SWF system in Norway. They use children as trade objects out of greed for money. If you deviate from some strict and unnatural normality scheme or culturally, your children are really in danger. This system snaps children to the full extent of their capacity. If you give them the double capacity, they will snap twice as many children as now.Generally I worn families with children moving to Norway or even visiting Norway as tourists. To kiss your child or give it a good embrace is enough in this country to be suspected of child sexual abuse and have your children taken away from you.

    The best way a foreigners can help both themselves and Norwegian Citizens against this system is total and full boicott of all Norwegian companies and products, and by not settling in Norway or go to Norway as tourists.

    Regards Knut Holt

Trackbacks

  1. Of that line between welfare and governmental overreaching « Learning to be Terse
  2. clarifying confusion (language, economics, whorf, propaganda) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

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