A senior jurist has denied that the law courts here are heavily skewed in favour of women involved in custody disputes with the fathers of their children. Supreme Court Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne said that despite the never ending refrain from male advocacy groups that women seemingly have a license to deny fathers the right to see their children, the court system has made great strides to ensure balance.
“I don’t believe that the court is skewed in any way because I am sure that there are some ladies who would say that the court favours men. You can’t win them all and the court is very aware of the gender issues,” Cooke-Alleyne told Barbados TODAY at the Ann Hill School, Pine Road, St Michael this morning following the launch of the Caribbean leadership project, a seven-year, CAD$20 million project aimed at strengthening the capacity of future leaders in the Caribbean to support gender-sensitive public sector reform and work collaboratively towards regional integration.
“Our Maintenance Act was actually amended a couple years ago to allow fathers to come to law courts to have access to their children and before that there was no legislation. This is because the magistrates have been doing some social engineering and in so doing recognizing that fathers need to have access for a child to have a holistic well-being.
“Of course you will still have the social enquiries report being done to determine where the child will be going, ensuring that the child will be safe. But the reality is that the law has actually changed to accommodate men in this regard. We are also involved with the Canadians in special projects and there is widespread gender training for all of us and Barbados is actually the pilot project for the Caribbean in this regard,” she added.
Men advocacy groups, led by the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA), have repeatedly complained that the court system favours women over men in cases involving access to their children.
Back in 2013 then MESA President Ralph Boyce said men’s rights in domestic affairs were either declining or non-existent.
The Maintenance Act was among legislation identified by Boyce back then, which he said had placed men at a disadvantage.
He charged then that men were being treated harshly when they go to court to deal with issues such as paying child support while women who refused to let men see the same children were allowed to escape without penalty.
More recently, Kammie Holder, founder of the newly formed male advocacy group, Access for Fathers, argued that some mothers continued to defy court orders by denying men their mandated time with their children.
However, Cooke-Alleyne explained that whether or not contempt charges would apply to a mother who did not comply with a court order for the child to spend time with the father, would depend on the mitigating circumstances.
She further pointed out that each case was unique and therefore could not be used to generalize the issue.
“It depends on who you speak to because everybody has a different opinion, but the fact remains that if you breach a court order you can be held in contempt and you can go to prison for that.
“It is however up to the individuals to go back to court and show good reason why they didn’t satisfy the court’s order and if the woman could actually prove her case then you are looking at a different scenario. You have to remember that each case is judged by its own particular set of circumstances,” she stressed.