Thu, Aug 06, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Single fathers face discrimination

STIGMATIZATIONSocial and government agencies in charge of single-parent affairs look at the problem from a mother-child perspective, often leaving fathers behind

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although Fathers’ Day is approaching, for many single fathers, “Happy Fathers’ Day” is nothing more than a slogan.

“Despite the revision of a welfare law on families with difficulties last year to include single-father families, most government resources still fall under women’s welfare departments and public servants at welfare offices still haven’t changed their mentality,” Single Parent Association of Taiwan executive director Chu Chien-feng (朱建鋒) told a press conference yesterday. “Many single fathers feel humiliated when they seek help from welfare departments.”

He said that when single parents seek help from the government, they often run into unfriendly staff who ask questions like: “Why don’t you go find a job since you have a healthy body?”

“With the social expectation that men should be tough, men who seek help from the government are usually those who are already in deep trouble,” Chu said, adding that life may be more difficult for single fathers than single mothers, as fathers not only have to take care of their children, but are also expected to take care of their parents.

After being humiliated a couple of times, a lot of single parents simply stop looking for help and many end up committing suicide, he said.

Citing statistics released by the Taipei City Department of Health, the group said that on average, 54 out of every 100 people who committed suicide in 2005 were single fathers.

A single father with two children who wished to be known by his nickname Lao Niao (老鳥) described the trouble he went through in applying for low-income family status and a government pension.

He said it took him four trips to his local city hall and to his borough office to apply for low-income family status, adding that City Hall official tended to be rather unfriendly when a man walked in.

After Lao Niao finally filed his application, he received a phone call from his borough office telling him that, based on their experience, his application was unlikely to be approved.

“It would more likely be approved if it were a woman with three children [making the application,” Lao Niao quoted the office as saying.

When Lao Niao tried to apply for an emergency pension after he could no longer afford to pay rent last year, the first question City Hall officials asked him whether anyone had died in his family, he said.

“What I went through was not an isolated case,” he said. “It takes more for a man to admit that he is not strong enough and needs help, but when single fathers go out to find help, what we have to face is often refusal and humiliation.”

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