Bangladeshi father, Abu Taher, has recently sued his son, Mohammad Shahjahan, for failing to provide him with the requisite financial support. Mr Taher, who previously ran a clothes shop in Chittagong, retired with a meagre sum of money, meaning that he has relied on support from his son and daughter. However, Taher alleges that while his daughter still supports him, his son stopped caring for and supporting his parents after getting married himself. Mohhammad Shahjahan, who now works as a banker, refutes his father’s claims, insisting that his father is bringing this case against him in order to ‘disgrace’ him and that he has in fact been supporting him nonetheless.
Taher was able to file the case under the Parents Maintenance Act, a Bangladeshi law which allows parents to claim money from children who fail to support them. Such laws are often referred to as laws of ‘Filial Responsibility’ and state that adult children have a responsibility to provide financially for impoverished relatives. Such laws do in fact exist in a number of US states (such as Kentucky and Nevada) and some countries in Europe (France and Germany), but there is rarely a need for them to be enforced.
In Asia, however, these statutes are more commonplace. For example, China, India and Bangladesh have developed such systems in recent times to meet the demands of ageing populations. As people live longer into retirement (The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2020, the amount of people older than 60 years will outnumber those aged under 5), more financial assistance is needed for people who have retired and thus no longer work for a living. In places like Bangladesh, it is the duty of adult children to provide money to look after ageing, impoverished parents even once they have left home. Punishment for neglecting ‘filial duties’ has varied from fines to imprisonment. In Sichuan, China, there was a recent case in which five adults were sentenced up to 5 years imprisonment for abandoning their father.
The presence of this law in the Bangladeshi legal system has meant that Taher could sue his son through a local court in Chittagong. Taher has been quoted as saying that ‘It was a hard decision for me. Everybody was telling me to file a case for a long time, but I did not want to. I filed the case when there was no other way.’ As father and son have been estranged for decades, it is unclear what part other motivations may play in Taher’s decision to take his own son to court. However, it appears that the case may be dropped after Taher and Shahjahan struck a deal out of court. Mr Shahjahan has agreed to pay the equivalent of £92 to his father every month and, if he continues to keep up his end of the deal (as he reportedly has so far) Taher will withdraw the case from the court in Chittagong.