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18 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Caring for parents

Dr Md Raziur Rahman

Right from the moment a child is conceived, the well-being of the child becomes the parents' primary concern. Over the years, the parents shower the child with love and affection and eagerly spend money, effort, time and energy after them. Simultaneously the parents also grow old and then comes the time when the tables turn and it is time for the child to look after their ageing parents. These expectations are deep-rooted in various societies, being influenced and sometimes institutionalised by religion and community sanctions. However, social changes have resulted in a gap between expectations and practice. Children both in the third world as well as developed countries are increasingly found to be not taking care of, or not willing to take responsibility to maintain their parents, making the poor parents helpless in their old age. A question arises here -- can the children legally deny maintaining their elderly parents? 
In Bangladesh as in other regions of the world, the population ages 60 years and older is growing faster than the total population and they are being neglected by their family. They are not treated even with basic human courtesy. As family traditions weaken, many elderly people now live apart from their children. As per Bangladesh constitution, the needy elderly people have a right to social security. This is one of the fundamental principles of state policy (article 15d of Bangladesh Constitution) and fundamental rights (article 26-47A).The aging problem in legal and ethical perspectives with their relevance in the case of elderly population in Bangladesh highlighting the needs and problems encountered by the elderly. 
There is no denying that from the moment we are born, we are dependent on our parents. They wrap us in their shawl of invincible and unconditional love and nurture us to adulthood with the best of everything they can afford. Then, the table turns. While the children move into the working age group, the parents move into the retired age group, and there comes the time when parents become dependent on their children. Unfortunately, many of us fail to provide the love and affection to our parents when they are at their vulnerable old age. Such situation has occurred so many times that even the Bangladesh Parliament felt the need to intervene, and hence came the Parents Maintenance  Act 2013 of Bangladesh (the ‘2013 Act’).
The Parent’s Maintenance Act, 2013, a law to ensure social security of the senior citizens, compels the children to take good care of their parents. According to the law, the children will have to take necessary steps to look after their parents and provide them with food and shelter.
Each of the children will have to pay 10% of their total income regularly to their parents if they do not live with their parents. Moreover, children will have to meet their parents regularly if they live in separate residences. Furthermore, under no circumstances are children allowed to send their parents in old homes beyond their wishes.
The law also allows aggrieved parents to file cases against their children if they decline to support them. A first class magistrate court will settle issues related to the violation of the law. For reconciliation of any issues, local government representatives such as chairmen, members and others authorised by them will settle the disputes. The law has the provision of Tk200, 000 as fine and, in default, six months jail term for violation of the law.
This Act ensures that the children have to take necessary steps to look after their parents and provide them with maintenance (Parents Maintenance Act 2013, section 2(b), The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007; section 4(3). This Act also defines maintenance as provision for amongst others, food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment.
Under the 2013 Act each of the children will have to pay a reasonable amount (Parents Maintenance Act 2013, section 3(7)) of their total income regularly to their parents if they do not live with their parents. The 2013 Act does not define as to what constitutes a reasonable amount. Moreover, children will have to meet their parents regularly if they live in separate residences. Furthermore, under no circumstances are children allowed to send their parents in old homes against their will.  There is nothing in the 2013 Act to suggest who is eligible to bring a claim under the 2013 Act. If, it is only the parents who are entitled to bring complain under the 2013 Act, then the 2013 Act fails to acknowledge the vulnerable position of the parents, both financially and physically.
In the Act both male and female children are responsible to maintain their parents. Thus equality has been made among them. And maintenance responsibility is not for any specific child rather for all. But if there is more than one child they may ensure maintenance by consultation among themselves.
No child can compel his /her parents to go to parents care or any other place for living jointly or separately. And every child must take care of his/her parents regularly and provide medical facilities. Every child must maintain communication with their parents within their capability if they live separately. Every child must provide a logical amount of money for maintenance from their earnings if the parents do not live with the children. The Act is not confined to the maintenance of the parents. It has also given emphasis on the maintenance of the grandparents both from father and mother. In the absence of father and mother, parents of both father and mother will be entitled to the maintenance, as the case may be.
In Bangladeshi context because of traditional norms and religious and social values most of the elderly are living with their offspring but at the same time it should be elicited that how easier this co-residency. Because of wide spread poverty and a socio-economic change, living together is no guarantee of economic well-being of the elderly. In general the elderly of Bangladesh are respected and well cared by their families but in recent time, Elderly abuse is alarmingly visible in rural poor family. Elder people suffer from the mistreatment of family members and the society.
Aging is an unavoidable and universal process in human life. But a little has been done to make the life easier for the elder generation who are the progenitors of civilization, the transmitter of culture and the people who ensure society’s lineal succession. It is our ethical and moral responsibility to extend our helping hands towards our senior citizen so that they can pass their last part life with respect, proper care, food security. Poor health care service, mistreatment from the family members and threat from meeting basic needs, unhygienic living condition and poor sanitary system, isolation and loneliness, unsuitable transport system and poor recreational facilities are very much associated with the life of the elderly in Bangladesh. Earlier the joint or extended family system used to take care of the elderly population by family resources but this situation is now changing rapidly through the eroding of traditional family pattern. In this context, the need for a social welfare program for the elderly both from the government as well as public sector is emerging and requires serious attention in future as Bangladesh is now welfare state. 

The writer Assistant Professor, Department of Law 
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 
Science & Technology University, Gopalganj
Email: raziur.law@bsmrstu.edu.bd    

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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