Greenlanders win right to know fathers

After years of legal battles, thousands of Greenlanders will finally have the opportunity to find out their paternal heritage

Danish families of men that lived and worked in Greenland in the 1950s and 1960s may be getting an additional family member in the near future.

The social and integration minister, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), will initiate a law proposal in December that will ensure that Greenlanders born out of wedlock before 1963 have the option of finding out who their fathers are.

The proposal is set to end years of debate and legal wrangling and will finally give Greenlanders a right that Danes have enjoyed since 1938.

The result of the law change means that a number of the children will be able to seek inheritance claims from their new-found fathers and his kin. The ministry proposal also includes the possibility that cases involving the establishment of fatherhood can be processed in Greenlandic courts even if the father in question has passed away.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of Greenlandic children were left fatherless by Danish, American and Faroese men who lived on the world's biggest island and grew up not knowing half of their heritage.

Since 1938, children born out of wedlock in Denmark have had the right to identify their father, use his name and inherit from him. In Greenland, children were first granted this right in 1963 and only in 1974 for children in north and east Greenland. But the law wasn’t retroactive, so fatherless Greenlanders who were born before 1963 were still left in the dark about their fathers' identities.

Tida Ravn, the head of the national association for fatherless children in Greenland, was pleased to hear that the law is finally set to become reality.

“It means everything to us that we are able to use our father's name after years of discrimination. It is important that we get a law now before it’s too late,” Ravn told Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper. “Many of the fathers are already dead and a number of the fatherless are also older people.”

Ravn herself has searched for her father since she was a teenager. He has passed away, but she has four brothers living in Denmark. Ravn is just one of an estimated 5,000 Greenlanders who will be able to finally find out who their fathers are.

And according to Sara Olsvig (Inuit Ataqatigiit), a member of the parliament in Greenland, it's about time that the law changes.

”Politicians in Greenland all concur that it is essential that the legally fatherless now have the opportunity to know their fathers,” Olsvig told Kristeligt Dagblad.

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