Emancipation Laws-The Indian Position

Currently, there are no laws in India that allow for emancipation. The author explains social challenges that lead to the lack of legislative reform and a way forward.
Emancipation Laws-The Indian Position

The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb- Henry Clay Trumbull.

Currently, there are no laws in India that allow for emancipation. There’s a very straightforward reason for it, it’s clubbed with the general reason for why child rights don’t exist in India. Not to be confused with child ‘protection’ by the way. Child protection rights are very much prevalent in India. From child labour being banned to the welfare of the child being of paramount importance in child custody, it’s all there. However, much like women (even though it’s getting better), children too are treated as property. Their parents essentially own them financially and in other ways up until the point of majority.

The reason why there are no laws in India about emancipation is simple. It does not cater to a voting bracket and hence, there is no state-specific interest in it, much like other child rights laws. Plus, there’s also the added factor that if such a law were introduced, it puts parents (a voting bracket) in a rather vulnerable position--- one where they aren’t in control, and that’s an uncomfortable thought that no one wants to test. Especially in a country like India where “tough love” is all the rage. Also known as toxic parenting. Why would any government be interested in losing an entire demographic and turning it against them, especially when there’s so much to lose?

The major justification for not having emancipation laws is that parental care systems in India far exceed that of other nations. However, the question we must ask ourselves here is, “Says who?” With so many cases of domestic violence and physical abuse being unreported and hitting children seen as an Indian parent’s right, how can one truly say that? Education, food and a roof to live over the head, aren’t the only requirements. Those just happen to be the necessities. If we look to them as being standards for what is excellent parenting, we’ve gone wrong in our thinking, somewhere. To speak of mental torture and abuse would be nonsensical, since it has been normalized in Indian society, with no one looking into the long-term effects it has on a child, especially with Indian parents not believing in the concept of therapy.

A child can never “talk back” to their parents and is seen as being disrespectful if they do so. However, this leads to society being one wherein authority is never questioned and the vicious cycle continues, with the child becoming the parent and repeating the same until the rare moment comes in where a parent decides to break it by saying “No, I shall not abuse my child in the way that I was or any other.”

It’s also why jobs in India do not cater to minors, unless you’re in the rural spectrum where children are informally engaged at tea stalls, mechanic stores and others. This is an ongoing cycle. If a minor is now suddenly capable of earning, then the chances of such minors challenging their parents increases. This is not very favourable to any parent and hence, society comes together as a whole to ensure that it doesn’t happen by forming legislation and laws around this to make certain that children stay dependent on their parents much longer than they would necessarily need to. Two cases come to mind here.

Let’s start with the obvious first. The case of the mentally or physically toxic parent where the child needs to get out and cannot stay or the child simply doesn’t wish to be dependent on his or her parents due to their own need for independence. It doesn’t mean that they love their parents any less. It probably means that they just want to be on equal footing with their parents, to be seen as an equal, rather than a dependent.

In the case of emancipation, it’s mostly a question of the latter.

It isn’t a question of a child needing to be removed from parental custody. It’s a case where the child wishes to venture out on their own and make their own decisions without their parent having to sign off on everything. If a child is mature enough, financially capable of doing so, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?

However, I do believe that before there are any legislative progress in this area it is important for minors above the age of 14 years to be financially independent. This would allow them to be on their own if they wish to.

Otherwise, the grant of emancipation even via legislative changes, may just be a redundant provision. What use are legislative changes, if the child cannot provide for himself or herself?

This is why it is necessary, almost crucial for us as a society to evolve and not be so fearful or insecure of our children leaving us. After all, if one has raised someone right, then that fear shouldn’t exist at all.

Author: Suhasini Chowdhury, Second Year Law Student at Tamil Nadu National Law University.

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