Greenland has asked Denmark to compensate what may be thousands of people who were born out of wedlock and rendered legally fatherless.
While all people from Denmark, Greenland’s former colonial master, have been able to learn who their biological father is since 1938, people from Greenland were not allowed the same right until 1963 in some areas and as recently as 1974 in others.
Greenland Inuit Ataqatigiit party representative in the Danish parliament Sara Olsvig described it as ‘a matter of principles’, and said Denmark needs to admit this form of discrimination. She went on to say that many families experienced great shame, and described the issue of compensation as ‘secondary’.
Many children from Greenland, which is now an autonomous territory, have claimed they were bullied and discriminated against. Thousands of children were born to workers from Denmark, the Faroe Islands and the United States as well as men from Greenland, but due to the laws in place were left legally fatherless.
Lawmakers in Copenhagen are due to vote this week on a bill that would give anybody affected the option to learn who their father is or was; however, the bill would not allow them to claim inheritance if the father is deceased and the estate has already been settled.
According to Danish newspapers, the number of fatherless children may be close to 5,000. Greenland’s population is only 57,000.
A Danish government report published in 2011 described the number as ‘very significant’ and said it reached its highest in 1973, when 56 per cent of Greenland’s newborns were born out of wedlock.
It stated that Danes had racist attitudes towards people from their former colony, which was among the reasons for the differing laws. It explained that in colonial times, Danes looked on Greenlanders as immature and less cultural, which is the reason rules on illegitimate children were considered irrelevant.
It concluded that there was a major worry that changing the law could lead to irresponsibility, particularly among Greenland’s women.