D. Robert Whiston es Presidente de la Plataforma de Padres Europeos (PEF), con representación en el Parlamento Europeo en Bruselas. La mayor parte de su carrera la ha desarrollado en torno a los negocios y las finanzas, por lo cual durante los últimos 20 años se fue involucrando progresivamente en el análisis de la investigación y la precisión de las estadísticas del gobierno. Desde 1999, sus análisis de políticas gubernamentales han dado como resultado el asesorar de manera ocasional a una variedad de ministros. Ha sido profesor de investigación para varias organizaciones benéficas y, como padre que tuvo que sacar adelante a dos hijos pequeños él solo, fue presidente de dos asociaciones de derechos paternales. Actualmente es el presidente de Men’s Aid, con sede en el Reino Unido, y el año pasado fue elegido presidente de la PEF, Plataforma de Padres Europeos, con sede en Bruselas. Robert ha aparecido en numerosos programas de radio y televisión y es autor de numerosos artículos técnicos relacionados con la violencia intrafamiliar (incluidas víctimas masculinas dentro de la VIF), derechos y protección del menor, custodia paterna, custodia de los hijos, custodia compartida y las oportunidades en la vida para los menores.
Situation of Spain in Europe: presumption of innocence, and arrests and convictions in the context of Spanish national domestic violence law and policies
Madrid speech, By Robert Whiston, February 22, 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first say how delightful it is to be here, and a sincere “Thank you” to all of you for inviting me – especially the vivacious Antonia Maria Carrasco who sweet talked me into diverting from my planned trip to Brussels to be here today.
I wish my arrival was under better auspices but I have never been one from shying away from injustice. From what I hear the situation developing in Spain it is one of injustice.
This then is also a learning mission. I need to listen carefully to the experiences, worries and points of view. I want to hear from Spanish organisations and understand their agenda.
I may be a ‘common’ simple man but my humanity tells me it is not right, and never is, to kick a man when he is down – and that, I am afraid to say, is what our states / nations and governments and institutions are doing to us, its citizens.
There is a “democratic deficit” at the European Commission. It is too big and too remote from people. Now our own governments are treating us in the same way and another ‘voting right deficit’ is appearing.
Instead of empowering us and treating us as equals, able to make adult decisions, the modern state treats us as naughty children and infantilises us.
Who you may be asking is this man ? He doesn’t even speak Spanish.! ! My name is Robert Whiston and I have been active with various organisations in promoting men’s and fathers’ civil and equality rights for over 20 years.
I represent a recently formed organisation called the “Platform for European Fathers”, or PEF.
PEF is an independent European and cross-national Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), based in Brussels as a federation of national organisations, who for some time past have been co-operating as individual national equal parenting-, involved fatherhood-, gender equality- and men’s and fathers’ civil rights organisations across European borders.
PEF is an open – ‘transparent’ is today’s buzz word – and supportive and co-operative service network and platform, aimed at giving a voice to member organisations at the European policy level and working in tandem with government, state institutions and pre-existing registered organisations.
It can be characterised as a vehicle to facilitate principally an equality of parenting for father and mothers, and the promotion of shared parenting and involved fatherhood to all 27 EU countries. But it is a vehicle sensitive to the needs of each member country.
Based on the premisses of our Founding Statement we have a welcoming “open door” policy to PEF membership. At present we are composed of 23 organisations from 15 European countries – including Spain and Portugal but extending as far afield as the Netherlands, Iceland, Belgium, Slovakia, Greece, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, Malta and Austria.
Our ‘Founding Statement’ sets out our MAIN OBJECTIVES. These include, in summary form:
- The harmonisation of European social policies
- The promotion of father inclusive and equal parenting policies in EU legislation and institutions
- We seek the full implementation of all European Convention articles for Human Rights and the jurisprudence by the European Court for Human Rights in all European countries
- To seek full gender equality in society, specially for fathers and fatherhood in the parenting and caring for children at home, in childcare and in education
- To be inclusive to all organisations representing fathers with no gender discrimination
- To further research and promote measures to address the increasingly evident “crisis among boys” in education in their role as potential future fathers
We do not include ‘the right to a fair trial’ and a ‘presumption of innocence until proven guilty’ as they are inalienable rights ‘taken as read’ in all European countries – or until now, for it appears as if Spain has abandoned that promise of fairness and justice.
Why do men and fathers need civil rights you may ask – haven’t they already got them ? Is it not women who need to try to catch up ?
Well ‘no’ that is a very wrong assumption. If you look at the Equality Acts the equal pay laws and all the other measures promoting ‘equality’ that litter the nations of the EU like confetti, very few of them think about making men as equal as women. They assume, like most of us, that men have everything already. But there are dozens of areas where men are disadvantaged.
During the conference I am hoping to be enlightened as to the Spanish experience of men being disadvantaged.
Triangles and Squares
PEF has a unified Pan European agenda that seeks to put involved, caring and educating fathers back into children’s lives and hearts and position them ‘centre stage’ along with mothers in a child’s life.
For too long children have been “orphaned” by the actions of the state, by new and allegedly reforming laws, and by the courts who are asked to carry out such dictates.
To alter that we need to alter the thinking and perceptions of politicians and civil servants (the bureaucracy), supporting them. We need to give a voice to the tens of millions of involved fathers in children’s lives, but also to the fathers and men in Europe and Spain aspiring to be involved fathers to thewir children, but who have become ‘dispossessed fathers’ – 2nd class citizens.
- In divorce scenarios what we find is a triangle of interests – on the left fathers, on the right mothers and at the bottom children. Laws have been passed to assist mothers’ rights and children but none passed to help fathers. They cannot be a close part of their children’s lives because the triangle blocks the move.
- In the legislation scenario we find a square frame – with mothers on the right, fathers on the left, politicians and lobbyists at the top and children at the bottom. And again movement for fathers is impossible.
For 30 years or more legislation has favoured women and mothers – in itself not a bad thing. But is this also true of Spain ?
Reformers’ have every time overlooked the truism and consequences of Pareto’s Efficiency dynamics, namely that:
‘no one can be made better off without making at least one individual worse off‘
Natural laws are broken at one’s own peril and we have only to look at the present economic mismanagement in Europe and around the financial world to see that ‘Gresham’s Law’ – the age old law that states; “bad money chases out good”, is not only alive but is thriving all around us.
If we upset and forget to re-set the natural equilibrium then we can expect discord and crisis to follow. This has happened in the Spanish financial world – as in my country – and also in legislation aimed at social policy and family law making.
The dynamics of marriage, of family life and of human relationships generally, have been ignored, some might say arrogantly, in the latter part of the 20th century and into the new millennium.
Therefore, as an example, at PEF our first step in 2011 was to support a reassessment of ‘paternity leave’ initiated by the Greens/Efa in the European Parliament. Some countries offer good paternity leave provisions but some offer very little.
Why paternity leave ?
Well first of all, ask any mother and the first days and weeks after giving birth can be fretful and tense. It is a time when you want your partner in parenting to be close at hand and not working and only available at the end of a telephone.
More essential however is for fathers to bond with their new child(ren) at the earliest possible stage and take their place and fair part and share in the hands on care and education of their children at home.
Finally it is also a time when household budgets are under maximum strain so paid paternity leave’ to match paid maternity leave is essential for most young couples.
But, of course, the biggest obstacles to equality for men in Europe is in the arena of child custody. All across Europe the tragic picture is the same. In Britain, to take one example, 40% of children whose parents divorce will, within 3 years, not see their father again. In the majority of cases this is not because fathers don’t want to or don’t care – far from it – it is the court regime that prevents easy access or contact and mothers who obstruct contact visits.
Why should mothers obstruct contact visits ?
The answer falls into three main causal components:
1. It can be the unfinished anger and resentment that lingers when one of the couples is unable to move on with their lives
2. Perhaps becoming divorced has not lived up to the rosier picture painted by glossy magazine description of ‘liberation’ and ‘self-autonomy’ etc she was expecting, or
3. It could be the result of having the need to maximize in state benefits and handouts.
Now although I am president of PEF, I am also chairman of my own country’ men’s and fathers civil right group which is called “Men’s Aid.”
For them I work as the senior researcher and that, I must confess, is my first love. I am one of those rare people that love numbers and I can make sense of numbers as I read them and graphs pop up in my mind’s eye.
In terms of data, this fertile mind of mine takes me to some extraordinary places and reveals some startling facts and figures. So I end up becoming a walking encyclopaedia of a lot of knowledge no one really wants or thinks to ask for. However, I am very useful to researchers and journalists who want facts quickly.
This is how I become interested in domestic violence and false allegations in all its guises. I could see that allegations of domestic or sexual violence was a ‘sure fire’ way of negating any chance of a father having an on-going relationship with his children after divorce.
This was, in my opinion, not only underhand conduct and repugnant to the mind but was actually not censored by the courts. It was perverse and cruel – perjury was being rewarded in the courts and the British legal system seemed not to care because it was so endemic.
And the more I spoke to my European based colleagues the more this pattern of behaviour solidified.
Public opinion & demonstrations
What I am going to talk about now is not PEF policy or Men’s Aid policy but some personal observations – an overview – distilled over the years.
I am now too old to go demonstrating on the streets but in years gone by I did when in the UK various fathers groups came together and blockaded and picketed various judges home and country estates who were infamous (in our opinion) for being unreasonable in not allowing any father contact. We interrupted their normal, quiet routine.
It was a success. Demonstrations were food and drink for newspapers sales and public opinion swung in favour of fathers within 12 months.
Two years later judges could be found writing in their professional journals and being interviewed by the mainstream media about how they had now re-evaluated their position and had always admired fathers prepared to fight for the custody of their children.
Why is this a key point ?
The reason I reveal this is because I would normally be expected to be found opposing judges and the legal system, yet here I am speaking up on behalf of His Honour Judge Francisco Serrano.
Why am I doing this ?
The reasons are simple:-
1/. I have never been one from shying away from injustice and the treatment of judge Serrano for simply doing his duty in applying the law is intolerable.
2/. The circumstances in Spain regarding the arrest and imprisonment of men for allegedly saying offensive words or being found too close to the complainant wife or even in the same town is simply insane.
It contradicts all the human rights promises and obligations that Spain signed up to when it joined the EU. Such an unconstitutional and inhuman law cannot be allowed to remain.
Let me deal first with the treatment of judge Serrano. From my understanding of the events leading up to his suspension he simply gave permission for a father to take his child to a religious festival. The EU protects an individual’s religious freedoms and judge Serrano was simply upholding the law. And returning to PEF for a moment let me underline what was stated earlier namely the; full implementation of all European Convention articles for Human Rights.
There is no conflict of interest here for me or PEF. I see a man – we see a man – who has been oppressed by the authorities for standing up in the name of the law and doing his job. It is of no importance what his rank or wealth is. He is being oppressed and persecuted. It would have been all too easy for him to bow to the political pressure and do as he was told.
When I heard about this extraordinary case of the state apparatus turning in on itself and attacking judge Serrano I wrote an article on my personal blog entitled “‘Spanish Inquisition Returns’”.
I subtitled it: ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes ?‘
“Who guards the guardians ?” – And I have to say Spain has brought a new dimension to the phrase. It used to imply how could we trust our state guardians or maintain their impartiality and impeccability.
But now Spain has altered it to also mean how can we protect our trusted guardians from political interference in the way they performs their duties ?
What are the options ?
These are simply my personal observations and innocent musings. They are not a call to action or to resistance.
I invite you to enlighten me but at present the answer, it appears to me, is for you and me, the ordinary men and women of Spain – to protect our trusted guardians from political interference.
I spent a little time earlier explaining how singling out one individual has the effect of others in the same profession in not wanting to attract the same attention for fear of the same action.
The same dynamics apply to bureaucracies. They have spent 99% of their existence telling others what to do, when and how. These bullies are totally defenceless to fight off attackers or condemnation by public opinion by the people that they usually oppress.
If you want to eradicate the present unfair arrest and imprisonment of men it has to be legally “set aside” or simply ignored by the enforcement agencies.
Let me ask you, ‘What it is that governments fear most’ ? Is it economic collapse, or invasion ? No, it is civil disobedience.
Let me remind you of the action of lawyers and judges who went on strike in Pakistan. Withholding one’s labour for 1 month would achieve the same result – near anarchy and panic in government circles.
Or let me sketch out another imaginary scenario. If police officers are to lose their jobs because they also are going to be accused of a crime and long before the trail they lose all contact with their children, their home and their income, why should they enforce the government’s legislation ?
With civil disobedience, either of the parties, the public, judiciary and police have the government ‘over a barrel’.
One person makes a difference
Time and again history has shown that one person can indeed make all the difference, for example, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi …. All that is needed is to galvanise behind an honest leader rather than a tyrant.
Politicians can be victims of pressure or their own politics and then we become victims of their decisions. Spain might not be in its present economic situation had the Republican government not shipped 500 tonnes of gold to Moscow for “safe keeping” in 1936.
Addressing the second point – that of impromptu arrest and imprisonment
I would remind you that it appears to contradict all the Spanish promises regarding EU human rights and consideration might be given to campaigns to counter it.
I would also remind you of Franco’s fictional 5th Column – allegedly a clandestine group of people who would undermine a larger group from within (which in 1936 meant the Republican stronghold of Madrid). This would involve acts of sabotage and campaigns of misinformation.
Misinformation in the West is endemic. Radical feminists in countless countries have all come up with a ‘1 in 4’ figure for the level of domestic violence or ‘inter-personal violence’ experienced by women.
What they do not say is how they all strive to meet that goal and what they do to achieve it. They also do not say loudly that it is ‘over a life time.’
The annual rates of offending in terms compatible with other data is between 2% and 4% per annum depending on country and marital status (married women being far less likely than single women).
Honesty such as this has landed me in trouble. As the only man at a Scotland Yard police seminar into domestic violence, I was asked not to return to the committee after 2 meetings. My sin was that I alone had read and memorised the full report (HORS 191), when others there had only written down the sentences that best suited their argument and politics.
In my humble opinion all the advanced Western countries have, since the early 1970s, faced a 5th Column without realising it because it is overt and not covert. Whole edifices of social normalcy and cultures have been convulsed by acts of sabotage and campaigns of misinformation.
In a book published in 2011 by Harvard professor Steven Pinker, for which I gathered some of the statistical data, violence in the West and domestic violence in particular has been falling dramatically for many years (Also see: Violence Vanquished; Pinker, S., The Wall Street Journal, 09/24/2011).
So why should Spain be so different that it needs such strict laws, and why do the mechanisms of that law infantilise the adult woman’s mind ?
Falling violence statistics are most unhelpful to the cause of Radical Feminism and the definition in the last 10 years has had to be expanded to off-set the decline.
I have nothing but admiration for those feminists – and I count Antonia Maria Carrasco in this category – who can rise above the petty, the self-interest of the Radical Feminists, and put their country’s interests, human rights and their nation’s welfare above all other considerations.
In terms of sexual violence UK government statistics were always absurdly high. A few years ago an independent government report at last endorsed my findings (The Stern Review). The previously used definition was misleading and erroneous; the conviction rate was simply ludicrous and the level of offending was no where as high as the UK government statistics had always insisted and the array of ages was all wrong.
There are several possible candidates for why social normalcy has been convulsed, but many feel that radical feminism, as clearly distinct from the many other forms of equality oriented feminism, is a prime suspect. Radical feminism is a fashion which, I believe, will run its course as the public wakes up to the damage it is inflicting and it will finally fizzle out.
In the meantime the infiltration has been through the organs of the state and through institutions – even the venue of this conference was not above attack.
Radical feminist theory is not shy in making its position clear – it wants power and control. It wants dominance, i.e. ‘equality’ not for humanity in general but to benefit only a small clique. ‘Working class’ men and women do not figure in their equation. Above all else, it is a dangerously manipulative ideology. Therefore, in terms of their political philosophy, the answer is clear – the disposal of rivals by whatever means.
Which brings us back to the problem of political corruption and how and who will guarantee public servants are able to perform their jobs impartially and be free from corrupting blackmail.
You, the proud people of Spain, a country my family has loved for 3 generations, do not have to suffer this indignity.
There are options. To conclude, let me therefore give strengthening resolve for the balancing struggle to come, for that is what will need to happen, by recalling some words of Churchill in the darkest days, when France, in May 1940, had just surrendered and Britain stood alone and with only half an army.
The French generals told their Prime Minister (and his divided Cabinet): “In 3 weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” In recalling this prediction just over a year later, in Dec. 1941, to the Canadian government in Ottawa Churchill exclaimed:
“Some chicken ! Some neck !”