Friday, May 23, 2008

Legal Rights of Mothers

Is it a feminist victory for the Court to make the State of Texas return the children to their FLDS mothers (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in Texas? I believe it definitely is. We mothers are under siege by the patriarchal state from the very moment we give birth. We are given no help in raising our children, and the state is ready to jump in and take them away if we don't jump through hoops. When my children were young, I was very aware that I could lose custody of my children very easily.

Isn't it ironic, though, that our victory comes in a situation where the mothers in question, so strong in their fight to regain custody of their children, are so weak in their relationship to their children's fathers and to the men who dominate their sect? The state moved in and yanked those kids out of their homes without having established that they were in any harm, but it seems that the mothers support beliefs of women's subservience to men and do not insist that their daughters have full opportunity to education and other opportunities.

This poses a serious question for feminists. We want to support women to have the power to raise their children in the way they think best, but how do we work to create a society in which each woman asserts that power independently, without coercion. I saw an interview of a FLDS woman and her husband. Her husband sat quietly throughout the interview. She was articulate and forceful, but I wonder how forceful she is in demanding respect in her own relationship and in demanding respect for her daughters by the ruling males in their sect.

In the meantime, for every woman whose had her children taken away because she couldn't support them or take proper care of them or because the state wouldn't help her with her problems in a non-punitive way, I am very glad those children are going home to Mom.


Rebecca said...

The authorities in Texas clearly overstepped their authority. They could have gotten a warrant to go in and do DNA tests or whatever without snatching 400 children away from their mothers. What exactly was their goal? I have a conflict in this case over the issue of religious freedodm. I suppose people can choose to be oppressed. But if the age of consent is the law, then the FLDSers are obliged to obey it or work to change it. I had a cousin in a fundamentalist sect in South Carolina in which women and girls were being sexually abused by the "Profit." She chose that life willingly and enthusiastically, but when her own child was being abused, her husband took her out to live with the grandparents. I guess people have a right to choose their oppression. Some TV coverage has been useful. Several women who escaped have spoken out, but until those mothers achieve some sense of empowerment, this cult will go on unchanged. They are not exempt from the law, however, which requires marriage licenses, with I.D., required. Perhpas that's the solution. To requrie them to obey current laws, but live in a patrirchal environiment.

Francie said...

I was glad that those mothers got their kids back. I'm not sure why
they didn't just go in and take the alleged perpetrators of the sexual
abuse--the men--rather than uproot the children from the only life and
parents they have known. I do oppose the taking of child brides, but
I'm still trying to figure out why polygamy is such an abomination if
it is consentual. Of course, this is what the religious right is
afraid of...that same-sex marriage will lead to the legalization of
polygamy and bestiality. Of course its difficult to judge just how many women and children truly consent to the isolated, fundamentalist lives they live in FLDS communities. At any rate, I'm glad the children are back with their moms.

Stuck in the desert said...

The act of taking children from their parents always brings out advocates from all sides of the issue. Which it should. This particular case has all the extremes you might think would be results of the slippery slope dangers of the State being able to act on uncorroborated anonymous accusations. Major press coverage, multiple children being taken, in the hundreds, motions by the State to permanently revoke the parental rights of the parents based on little or no evidence, and so forth.

If we are going to stand up for the rights of parents to have their children free from these kind of uncorroborated accusations you should be willing to stand up for all parents for those rights. This particular group is not of my thinking, for sure, but they deserve the same freedom from an oppressive State as the rest of us.

Releasing them only after conditions similar to them being on probation is just another way for the state to say that they are really right and need some control. If there are illegal things going on in this community the State still can act to stop it. They just have to KNOW with some certainty and be able to substantiate that to some certainty to a court. Something the State has been usable to do in any degree in this case.

It is said everyday how important motherhood is and how it is the most important job any woman can do. Not only for herself and her family but also for society as a whole. This until she thinks differently or wants to raise her children with different standards - then she is 'fired' from that all important job, and in this case without review. Yes, she does have review - but she is fighting just to see and hold her children at this point - In this particular case the women had already been deemed unfit and were fighting just to remain a mother with the creditable threat that they would never hold or even see their children ever again.

The argument that society must protect their children, even if it requires taking some from unfit mothers does not fit here. They were taking children not knowing that they, the individual child, even existed before they actually saw them walk out of their homes and not having one single piece of creditable evidence that any one of them had been mistreated. While it looks like Texas acted differently than other States might have - that is not true either - all States act in this manor, just on a smaller scale. Tell the mothers in others states that they were treated more fairly just because only one or two children were removed. The numbers only gives it more press - not any more grievous that it is in the individual cases