On behalf of the Diotima Center, we express our opposition to “Reforms regarding the relationship between parents and children and other family law issues”, the legislative initiative by the Ministry of Justice that was recently put to public consultation.
Firstly, because the country’s women’s and feminist organizations were systematically ignored, they were never invited to dialogue, despite the proposals and interventions they put on the public agenda.
At the same time, the Ministry of Justice ignored public statements and interventions by reputable jurists, active lawyers with long experience in family law issues, and professors of universities (law, constitutional law, social sciences, etc.) who question whether the regulations introduced actually serve the best interests of the child, choosing to talk exclusively with “dads’ associations”.
As we have stated in a previous public statement (21/12/2020), any reform that claims to encourage shared parental responsibility should primarily aim at eliminating and not reproducing gender stereotypes and roles, on the basis of which gender discrimination and inequalities are founded.
Let us not forget that the concept of parental responsibility as a duty and obligation of parents exercised jointly was first established in the reform of family law in 1983, thus establishing the legislative abolition of paternal authority as the exclusive right of the man/father.
The above is in contrast to the draft law under vote, which may not ultimately promote mandatory “co-custody”, however, it introduces and emphasizes the mandatory co-decision of the parents and the strengthening of the child’s relationship with the other parent, without also taking into account the risk, in case of domestic violence, of exposing mothers and children to re-victimization.
In addition, the condition of the irrevocable conviction of the parent for domestic violence, etc. in order to limit or exclude the right of access or to presume the improper exercise of parental responsibility, is in direct conflict with Law 3500/2006 and Law 4135/2018 (Istanbul Convention), which provide for the possibility of imposing restrictive measures of non-communication (non-approach to the residence of schools and children’s schools, etc.) already from the initial stage of submitting the complaint for domestic violence against the abusive parent.
The mandatory co-decision of the parents, which in various ways is established through the articles of the bill on many issues that were previously resolved by the parent who has custody, in cases of conflictual relationship of the parents will create more problems and increase the frequency of recourse to the courts, exhausting financially and mentally the parent who has custody, as a result of which he/she does not have the power to raise his/her child, but also with the possible effect of preventing divorce to avoid such situations.
This condition will mainly affect mothers, who in the attempt to raise their children as working or unemployed with the meager alimonies granted by the courts, the lack of support from the State to single parents, and the difficult (in many cases) or even violent relationship with their former partner they will have to cope with the increased judicial safeguards that this bill provides to the other parent, as well as with balancing their lives and the lives of their children on the thin rope of “1/3 contact time”.
Moreover, despite the mathematical approach and the quantification of contact time, an equally mathematical approach to the amount of alimony is lacking, namely a presumption of alimony in favour of the parent with custody of the child, which we would expect to be included after the specialisation attempted for other rights and legal concepts.
We are aware of the great controversy that arises in the courtrooms over the issue of the amount of alimony and the income and expenses of both parents, as well as the needs of the child, which often exceeds in intensity the dispute over the award of custody and the regulation of visits.
This omission of the bill reinforces the impression of the unilateral, on the part of the parent-bearer of the right of access, and treatment of family law, and raises even greater concerns for the implementation of all the provisions of the draft law.
The overall approach and spirit of the draft law combined with a number of very problematic provisions, make it clear that modern socio-economic conditions and institutional safeguards such as changes and shifts in gender roles, the legal guarantee of substantive gender equality, the cohabitation agreement of same-sex couples, the legal recognition of gender identity, but also the strict recommendations of the GREVIO Committee for the Monitoring and Implementation of the Istanbul Convention (Law 4531/2018) are not taken into account.
Despite the announcements that the legislative initiative of the Ministry of Justice will be inspired by the principles of gender equality, this draft law does not seek neither to remove patriarchal perceptions of the family nor to include new forms of family, as it does not expand the rights and obligations in parenthood, including the adoption of children by LGBTQI+ people, and recognition of the same rights to parents of children born both in and out of wedlock.
A modern and inclusive Family Law requires the recognition of different family models beyond the nuclear/patriarchal/heteronormative one and requires the exercise of welfare policies with the support of parents and children from specialized social services, and finally, the establishment of a Family Court to settle the relevant disputes in a way that ensures the best interests of the child.
On this basis, we call for the withdrawal of this draft law and the initiation of an open democratic dialogue with the scientific community, feminist and women’s organisations, the LGBTIQ community, and civil society in general, for the reform of family law, with a view to gender equality and social justice on the basis of the rights and best interests of the child, but also on the basis of reinvesting with meaning family and parenthood.