A Gujarati couple's fight to regain custody of their child in Germany, and the childcare services in the West

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadMar 14, 2023 | 15:50

A Gujarati couple's fight to regain custody of their child in Germany, and the childcare services in the West

A Gujarati couple is fighting for the custody of their child in Germany. Photo: DailyO

Rani Mukherjee's latest movie, Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, is set to hit the big screens on March 17. The film is based on a real story of an Indian migrant mother's fight against the Norway child services to win back the custody of her two children who were taken away from her.

While Chatterjee's story may be a decade old, similar stories of Indian migrant couples losing their children to childcare services in the West have made headlines. 


The most recent one is the case of a Gujarati couple who had their baby girl taken away from them in September 2021 by German childcare authorities called the Jugendamt.

ANI reported that the couple was in India trying to seek the help of the Indian government.  

We are not getting a fair trial. We are not getting the chance to present our case, they are listening to just one party.
- Mother

What's the case? 

  • In 2021, a Gujarati couple welcomed their baby girl in Berlin. A few months later, the baby's grandparents came to visit them in Germany. 
  • But the baby's private parts were reportedly hurt in an accident and was taken to a hospital. 
When she was 7 months old, her private parts were hurt in an accident. We took her to a doctor who said everything was fine. When we went for a follow-up, they informed the child service and alleged that the child had been sexually abused.
- ANI quoted the Mother
  • The parents deny the allegations. Since then, the baby has been under the foster care of the Jugendamt.
They don't have anything against us as the case regarding the injury to private parts has been dismissed. Now they are questioning our parental capabilities.
- Mother (ANI)
  • The parents say that in February 2022, the case was closed after an investigation without any charges of sexual assault or abuse brought against the parents. 
  • However, they have been unable to get custody of their daughter back. The parents allege that they are not being given a fair trial in the case. 
  • Moreover, they have protested against the child being fed non-vegetarian food when their family is vegetarian. 

  • The mother also claimed that they are being accused of fundamentalism when they try to whisper Indian mantras to their child. 
  • "If they can't understand our culture, how will they understand us and our pleas?" the mother argued.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs earlier said that they are speaking with their German counterparts in the case; however, the case was complicated due to sexual assault allegations. 
  • The matter is still sub-judice as we write this. 

While the verdict is still not out on what happened in the case of the Gujarati couple, there have been times where Western child care services have been called out for high-handedness and not being able to understand cultural differences. 

What should you know about childcare services in the West?

Cases of Indian parents losing their children's custody in Norway, Germany, the UK, the US, etc have come forth now and then. 

However, it cannot be assumed that every case was or is unjustified. 

  • In particular, Norway was in the news - albeit not for good reasons - a few years ago for its child care services called Barnevernet. Yes, the same one in the case of Mrs Chatterjee of India. 
  • Barnevernet was accused of "state-sponsored kidnappings" and having a cold approach towards child welfare. 
  • Not just the Chatterjees in 2011, but there have been several cases of other migrant couples and Norwegian parents who claimed their children were unjustly taken away from them. 
  • So bad was the problem that the UN criticised Norway in a 2005 report for taking too many children into public care. There were also some cases with the European Court of Human Rights against Barnevernet.
  • In 2015, a Norwegian wife and her Romanian husband had their five children including an infant taken away by the Barnevernet abruptly.  
  • In another case, a Czech family in Norway also made similar claims against the Barnevernet which led to a diplomatic row between the Czech Republic and Norway. 
  • However, in 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the Czech mother and denied her parental rights. 
  • In the case of the Chatterjees, the initial justification made for taking away the children from the parental care was because the children were hand-fed and slept with the parents, something common in Indian families. 

The overall attitude is that the Chatterjee-like cases in Norway or other places are a few incidents and not a plaguing problem. It also needs to be noted that while these countries have functioning child welfare services, though not without controversies, India doesn't even have a robust child care service. Despite having the highest number of children, child abuse is rampant and goes unchecked in India and in Indian families.

Last updated: March 14, 2023 | 15:50
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