Fathers seek dignity

Newly established clubs promoting fathers’ rights are emerging in Greece to help divorced fathers gain more of a hand in raising their children after a family’s separation. Organizations such as «Dignity for Men and Fathers» want to see men and women as equal partners in parenting. They say that today men are much more spiritually and emotionally involved in raising their children, even if more marriages end in divorce. According to the National Statistical Agency, one in four marriages ends in divorce today, compared to one in 10 in 1990. Even if the divorce is amicable, the woman almost always gets custody of the children and becomes the custodial parent. «In Greece, the father isn’t lucky enough to get the kids unless the mother is a drug addict or a prostitute,» lawyer Rania Karabliani told Kathimerini. «And yet this does not have any basis in law.» Karabliani says the law says the judge must consider what is best for the children in divorces, analyzing factors such as the parents’ educational level and economic stability. «These decisions could come out in favor of fathers,» she said. «Even scholars say that, with the exception of children’s first few months, when they really need their mothers, children need both parents to raise them.» It’s also routine to denigrate divorced men, presenting them as spiritually unconnected to their children. So even if a father is capable and willing to raise his children, he is relegated to seeing them twice a month. Consider 36-year-old Sotiris Daniel, divorced for two years. Every second weekend, he travels from Athens to Halkidiki to see his 3-year-old son. «I am very happy to see him, but it isn’t possible to be a parent four days a month,» he says. However, after the divorce, the man stops having rights as a father. Associations such as the 500-member Dignity for Men and Fathers want to change this. «We want to prove that children need both parents,» says Nikos Spitalas, president of Dignity for Men and Fathers and a professor at the Technical University of Larissa. «Today, we participate just as fully as mothers in the raising of our children.» The association also wants men with children to enjoy the same rights as women when it comes to post-divorce visitation rights, benefits and retirement. «We are not waging war,» Spitalas says. «It’s obvious women face many inequalities. Our goal is to level the playing field.»

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