Ruhan (alias) reads in class three. Whenever anyone asks him about his father, he simply says, "He died in a car accident." When his mother, Miss Rahela, came to know that he was lying constantly, she was shocked. But eventually she understood her son's emotions. Saying that his parents are divorced invites a lot of unpleasant questions whose answers are unknown to Ruhan, so he opts for some made up stories.
Rahela, a college teacher, has recently got a divorce. She has three kids and none of them has crossed the age of 18. Rahela said all of them are doing excellent with their academic results and her husband pays a fixed amount every month to cover educational expenses. Yet, the kids suffer from the fact that their father does not live with them.
Ruhan is Rahela's youngest one. While her younger daughter refused to say anything about her father or parents, the oldest one who just completed SSC seemed to have a lot of pent-up rage stored in her.
She said, "They say I won't get married because my father does not live with us. I am not sure if I want to get married."
When asked as to who the word 'they' represented, she fell silent.
Like Ruhan and his sisters, the number of unhappy kids falling victims of parental separation and divorce are only increasing. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, divorce has spiraled by 34 per cent in the last seven years.
Generally, mothers get the custody of under 18 children but the sufferings do not end here, as in many cases fathers refuse to pay child maintenance, or mothers refuse to let the children meet their fathers. Such complications lead to legal issues involving children.
In fact, 30-35 per cent cases filed at the family courts are child custody lawsuits, said bench officer Jahangir Alam to The Business Standard. There are three family courts in Dhaka. In 2018 there were 7242 pending cases against 307 new cases.
Advocate Mahmudur Rahman who deals with divorce and custody of children informed The Business Standard that a father can demand the custody of the child after the age of 8 if it is a boy. But his win of custody will depend on many factors. What happens from children's end is that they get confused over whom to choose.
Whatever the circumstances are, it undoubtedly troubles the adolescence. The principal of Bangladesh Institute of Special Education, Monira Yesmeen, thinks, living in harmony is the natural order for kids which gets hindered by divorce.
"Such blow in harmony in tender age totally destroys their sense of security. They grow up with trust issues and finally develops personality disorder."
The existing law or the system do not help the situation in this case. Moloy Kumar, a family case conducting lawyer, informed the Business Standard that 1961 Muslim law only deals with maintenance and guardianship. In the end the psychological trauma of the kids remains untreated.
Referencing to this problem a presidium member of Khelaghor, an organisation for the kids, said, "In our culture we do not acknowledge that children's psyche is different and fragile. We should specially take care of them. Obviously kids coming from broken family do not get proper counselling either. Since divorce is rising, we should think something about it."
These investigations took The Business Standard to Tanim (alias), a father of an eight-year-old baby girl. Tanim got divorced two years ago. He is sharing a nice relationship with his ex-wife and spends quality time with his daughter on weekends.
He said one of the main reasons of getting divorced was incompatibility with each other which was creating a hostile environment for their kid's childhood.
"Differences can grow between two people to such extent when separation is inevitable. It does not mean your kids need to suffer for that. My ex-wife and I try to keep our kid away from our dissimilarities so that she does not think this world to be an unpleasant place," said Tanim showing the team a picture of her daughter.