April 16, 1999
by Todd Andrews.
Todd Andrews is a third year under graduate student from the United States studying gender sexuality and gender. This interview is part of a study about the situation of men and fatherhood in Holland.
I arrived at Joep's house a little after 3:30 on Friday the 16th of April. Joep is a man of 46 with energy and a passion to fight for what he believes in. He is an artist, musician, councilor and a father to name but a few of his attributes. Joep has a Daughter Rosa 11, and a son Joshua 7 months
We began our interview:
The historical data for the fatherhood organizations are harder to support because it has only been minimally represented. Part of the reason for this was men's organizations supporting fatherhood legal rights during the 70's and 80's were broadly ignored. The pro feminist organizations that split off of the women's liberation movement of the 60's gained much of the attention. Therefor, any history that is recorded concerns the pro-feminist politically correct men's action groups that took root after they were kicked out of the women's liberation movement. The organizations supporting fatherhood rights and attempting to gain visitation rights and equal custody was seen as negative by some women's liberation movements.
Joep gathered this information from a series of conversations, to show what was happening for fatherhood legal rights during the time when pro-feminist men's movements were gaining most of the spotlight.
The history of legal trends in the Netherlands can be traced to two things. First, the Civil Code of 1838 said two things. In Article 284 it states: The child will stay with parent who wins the court case, but the court has the right to choose the parent. The person who won the case in that time had to prove their partner had broken the oaths that the two made at marriage. The following article 285 of the Penal code made it still standard to carry on joint custody if the parents wanted to.
In 1901, another landmark happened with legal rights for parents. The law changed to only one parent custody, which the court decided. Joint custody and visitation rights were not allowed to the non-custodial parent. This custody weren't mainly to the mother because she was seen as the nurturer and the carer for the children and thus took the children. Between the 1950's and the 1980's, the informal codes of paternal rights and the hegemonic power of the father was being re-evaluated by feminists of this time. The father-patriarch was being challenged and the need for women to do what men said was being de-legitimized. This led to the divorce movement in the 60's by the women's organizations to make divorces easier to have and attempted to cut fathers out of the contract they had with their children after marriage.
There were organizations that attempted to gain these rights for fathers back since the early 1970's. In 1971 the Adviesbureau Kinderbeschermings Konflicten AKK formed to give advice to parents in custody battles (mainly men) and for parents having problems with the Child Protection Service. This organization exposed the inequalities of the CPC, and helped parents gain custody and other rights in a divorce situation. In 1981 the Minister of Justice, Job de Ruiter viewed the single parent custody act without visitation rights or joint custody opportunities to the non-custodial parent as a "tyranny." He wanted to change the law. The Minister made great efforts to change the law to allow visitation rights to the non-custodial parent and the opportunity for this parent to have joint custody. This measure gained strength in parliament and was close to being passed in 1983. When the issue came up for a vote, women's organizations mobilized to protest it. The main argument by feminists was that this measure would keep ex-wives controlled by their previous husbands. Because of the strong resistance to the bill, the justice withdrew it and non-custodial parents didn't gain visitation rights or equal custody rights.
The case was one of the first visible actions of fatherhood organizations legal rights. Around the time of the case, organizations formed to work toward legislation to help give fathers visitation rights get custody of their children, and other structural equalities they did not have. Near 1971, a man began working toward reforms, and revealing the problems with the Child Protection Center CPC. The CPC is a governmental organization who investigates mothers and fathers in a custody battle to determine who is the best parent to raise the child. His organization the AKK, which has currently turned into the AKJ is no longer doing similar work because of their current situation working with the CPC and accepting too much of the CPC's policies.
While fatherhood organizations began to loose strength in the late 80's, fatherhood's rights action stayed alive. They resurfaced with a renewal of energy in the Dwaze Vaders in 1989. The Dwaze Vaders formed as a political action group to help gain rights for fathers in divorce situations. The Dwaze Vaders continued and renewed the fight to gain father's rights in custody and visitation rights. They were not working with the Child Protection Center and took up the fight to continue to expose the harmful acts of the CPC. They helped father's in court cases to try to get custody of their children and not get shut off from support by their wife. While they have nearly 200 paying dues while only about 10 to 15 are actively doing anything. They provide phone support and legal advice. They also converge on occasion to either make public protests or other demonstrations against lawyers, social workers or other people who discriminate against fathers.
Joep became involved in Dwaze Vaders in 1991, during the process in which his child was taken from him in a separation he had with the mother of his child. They were not married. The CPC and his wife refused to allow him access to his daughter. This led to his action with the Dwaze Vaders then and was part of Dwaze Vaders. He is part of KOM, who are setting up 10 lectures supported by the government for men to combine care and work. He is the chairperson for the father and child center who is raising funds to make the center a reality in Holland. Lastly, he is working as the psychological advisor for the Foundation for Child Visitation Rights (Stichting kind en omgangsrecht) who have been active for the past five years. He supports himself by selling his artwork, doing counseling with men, and from the money allotted to do the lectures with the KOM.
Joep's beliefs about the divisions of spheres remained consistent with that of Jos Bregman and Ton van Elst. He believed that "in ideology" that the division between men and women has been dissolved; though, "in practice" these spheres are not yet broken. One example of this can be found in regards to care. The Dutch government provides a health care service, Kraamzorg, for women that just gave birth and their child. The health care professional will come to the house of the mother and child to check up on both to make sure they are both healthy. In this organization, which is in the entire country of Holland only one man is employed to do the work. This shows one practical division in care, where men are not equally represented. Women still mainly dominate situations in the social services.
Joep found another significant structural bias toward mothers in child custody cases. When he was acting as the legal representation for a custody hearing in Arnhem Holland, he received a form. Pre-printed on the form in the place of custody it said mother, and pre-printed in the non-custodial parent spot was father. "The Court of Arnhem was on the national news some years ago because they used printed forms which didn't even allow for the possibility of the father gaining custody." Mother was printed on the sheet speaking to the assumption that mothers will get custody, without argument. The legal system, which acts as an active voice of the government, it was stated custody: mother. Another way of stating this is Caregiver for the children: mother.
This example shows the structural division of care in favor of the mother. These result in the promotion of the old divisions of spheres that woman and men were "ideally" liberated from. The practical and the ideal worlds do not match up. As Joep said in relation to care organizations " The number of men who need help is growing while the number of men giving help is decreasing." This emphasizes the fact that the spheres of care and non-care role assignments for fathers and mothers are still a great influence. The discontinuity between the practical and ideals worlds help motivate Joep to continue his activism.
Through Dwaze Vaders and the KOM, he is creating support networks for men in the care industry. Joep believes that men need more support practically as well as ideologically. Ideology is close to the objective, allowing visitation rights to fathers and, if mothers allow it, joint custody. This allowance of mothers is no small issue and fathers are having problems because the Child Protection Center is biased toward mothers.
The Child Protection Center and others are not as well situated in practical support for fathers to care for their children. Joep said, "when mother's don't want the fathers to have custody, they will probably get their way," providing that the women can keep a certain level of composure, and seem stable enough. There is no legal guard to ensure that father's are treated equally. Joep received a document from the CPC that discouraged men from care for their children. Here is one example around 1995 from a child psychiatrist/ who was investigating for the CPC a mother's accusation of molestation of the child by the father. In the letter the psychiatrist says "the father should leave things like changing diapers to the mother. Because this man [the Father] is a doctor he should know this." The psychologist does two things in this statement. First, he assumes that care is up to the mother. Second, He thinks that fathers shouldn't change a child's diaper because it, in some way, is like molestation. Both of these statements are socially constructed myth, and are another example of the division between ideology and practice. These sorts of statements further the division of care between mothers and fathers and are not encouraging fathers to care more for their children. These levels are starting to be broken down, but the process is slow. There is now a platform "platform scjf" of volunteers in the Parliament and actions that are on the floor. This moment consists of family organizations, legal reform organizations and other groups with the purpose of making proposals on how the change the law or ideal level to be more equal to everyone. The platform forms a commission on international contacts, and the formation of an international father's organization.
The platform lobbies in Parliament for parent child rights that are equal for both fathers and mothers. Joep is a chairman on the commission to change family law, which is part of this platform.
Important dates: 1990 fathers were first granted the ability to have child visitation rights.
In a survey in Holland Germany and France-After divorce 50% of their fathers never see their fathers again.
Men are in all areas of business except social services
Courts are performing illegal acts because they are not allowing court pronunciations to be seen by the public.
40% of all children in America do not see their fathers on a day to day basis.
Divorced fathers are hard to organize because of their feelings of grief and helplessness.
Men still primarily control top crust of business
Women are part of all areas of business, except the top crust.
Universities in Holland have nearly 50 percent men and women.
Men who have a greater income get a greater percentage of custody of their
Problems with society in Holland:
Not enough structural support for men to care for children.
Don't have societal support because the mother=care belief is still in place.
Fathers are not encouraged to be fathers
"There is no specific gender model for helping men (in the new model of the care as manly)"
Dutch governmental action:
The KOM with Dirck van Bekkum, Jos Bregman and Joep Zander received 30,000 Guilders to set up 10 lectures that encourage men to divide their lives between care and work more.
The Family Law Platform is receiving governmental money as well.
No Fatherhood or strictly male centered organizations have received governmental support.
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