The state has a duty to protect its citizens and ensure that they are treated with dignity. Unfortunately, promise and accountability are often forgotten by those in power, both in government and in society. Last week, the Kerala High Court (HC) ruled that violation of this fundamental principle would not be acceptable, adding that children of single mothers and victims of rape deserve basic rights to privacy, liberty , dignity and that no one can interfere in their personal life. . If transgressions occur, the Constitutional Court will protect their fundamental rights, Judge PV Kunhikrishnan said in his order. In this landmark ruling, the HC also allowed a person to include only their mother’s name on a birth certificate, identity certificates and other documents.
Children born to single mothers or victims of sexual violence are often stigmatized by society and the state and face discrimination at every stage, from admission to schools or interaction with peers and teachers, to access to simple government documents or job applications. In 2019, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court recognized this challenge and allowed a woman to terminate her pregnancy. In its order, the court said that in India, a child born to a single mother is considered a “social stigma of a serious nature” and that “it would neither benefit the petitioner nor the fetus in his womb. “. The fact that such discrimination continues despite a 2015 Supreme Court order that single mothers should not be forced to disclose the father’s identity to authorities and that his right to privacy is of paramount importance, shows the depth and breadth of the problem.
In today’s society, where women are increasingly choosing to raise their children alone, it is important that the rights and dignity of the mother and her children are protected, and that the name and background of the father – or his absence – do not become the priority marker of a child’s identity. The Kerala HC Ordinance is not new but is a necessary reminder to the state and society that such protection is unfortunately still in the works.
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