Maneka Gandhi Calls for PAN Cards to Drop Father’s Name Requirement
Maneka Gandhi, Cabinet Minister of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, called for an end to the mandatory listing of fathers’ names in PAN card forms, in a letter she to wrote to Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, for children who might have been adopted by single mothers, or whose mothers are separated or divorced, reports Hindustan Times. Presently, in the PAN card application form, filling out the father’s name is mandatory in the application form, while mother’s name is optional.
Gandhi wrote to Goyal, asking him to “re-examine” the PAN card application form, to accommodate the substantial number of children of single or divorced mothers. She also addressed the fact that divorced mothers with sole custody often aren’t comfortable with including their ex-husbands in their children’s legal documents.
“Keeping in view the sensitivity of such single mothers, it is important to give them option of not having to mention the names of their ex-husbands on the statutory applications required to be filed before different government authorities,” wrote Gandhi, in the letter to the Finance Minister.
Today, with so many single women opting to adopt children and parent alone it becomes necessary to amend the older rules, she adds. “In such cases, there is no father of the child whose PAN number is being requested for.”
The step to socially validate the lives of single female parents in India and ease sexist bureaucratic hurdles for their children is a positive move, but it fails to recognize the biological children of never-married mothers and any children born within a union (heterosexual or lesbian). Apparently in those scenarios, forms would still require families to furnish fathers’ names, while mentioning moms remains optional.
If the Finance Ministry accedes to Gandhi’s recommendation, it’s likely any change made will be applicable to the whole public, not just the specific types of families Gandhi identifies. This is what happened in 2016, when the Ministry of External Affairs updated India’s passport application form to require the name of only one parent (or none, at the adult applicant’s request), at the urging of Gandhi, who lobbied on behalf of a woman estranged from her husband who was trying to apply for a passport for her daughter.
If that is the result, perhaps we shouldn’t care how we arrive there. But this moment was ripe to challenge sexist family norms that hold mothers to be the fitter parent for raising a child, but fathers to be the real, or ultimate, parent. Single, divorced and separated mothers do need champions — they often face stigma rooted in the same kind of mindset that prioritises fathers’ names over mothers’. Gandhi had an opportunity to challenge this mindset, not just the manifestation of it — and thus actually change the lives, not just the paperwork, of single mothers, of all mothers. She missed it.