Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway - An Immigrants Mother's Fight to Take Her Children Back

Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway - An Immigrants Mother's Fight to Take Her Children Back

Azher Hameed Qamar, Ph.D (

The movie 'Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway' is a story of an immigrant mother whose two young children were taken away by the Norwegian foster care system and legal machinery, and she fights hard to win back custody the of her children. There are several reviews available on google, so I am not going to write a long review. Here, I will write a few important points from the movie that can help to research, and reflect on foster care system, legal machinery, cultural aspects of parenting practices, and debates on integration in Nordic countries.

The movie shows a typical Indian family where patriarchy prevails and husband position himself as a bread earner and family head, and his wife as a housewife who is solely responsible for childcare and domestic work (e.g. cooking, washing and cleaning). Mother is a typical Indian woman who believes in serving the family (husband and children) with love and care. She is also a symbol of mother’s unconditional and passionate love for her children. There is a special bonding and attachment between mother and children. 

  1. When people from childcare and foster care departments took her children, three issues they particularly focused (related to childcare) are:

1. Husband does not help wife in childcare 

2. Children sleep with mother. 

3. Mother feed the children with her hands. 

Now, first issue is particularly related to culture of gender roles, that sometimes (when forced) takes the form of women abuse. However, second and third issues are related to mother-child attachment and bonding in non-western culture, that cannot be questioned as wrong. To label a cultural practice of childcare as ‘wrong’, is a sensitive issue, and it is a practice of forced ‘assimilation’ disguised as ‘integration’. It also means that labeling a cultural practice of childcare as ‘wrong’, is presenting the host country’s culture as ‘right’ that should be forced going against the cultural rights of diverse population. Overall, this movie raises concern about two things that should be addressed simultaneously.

Parenting and childcare culture must be studied in its contextual meanings for the wellbeing of the child and the family. Hence, the professionals working in foster care system and legal machinery should have cultural competency to understand and accept diversity that may not be in line with their culture.

Immigrants living in European countries should also learn to break those cultural barriers that force the gendered roles, and male dominated family practices. It is not about abandoning one’s culture, but it is about bringing up a family with shared responsibilities and fostering their cultural values for holistic wellbeing of the family.

This is a brief note about the movie, and after watching it you may find more details relevant to these concerns. Here I am also posting an English translation of BBC Urdu news that is interesting.  



The Indian film 'Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway' which was released two months ago is now back in the news after its release on Netflix. When the film was released in Indian cinemas on 17 March, a controversy arose after Norway's ambassador to India claimed inconsistencies in the facts presented in the film.   

The film is based on a true incident that happened to an Indian couple in Norway about 12 years ago. In an article written in a newspaper, the Norwegian ambassador to India, Hans Jacob Friedland, claimed that the film contains many contradictions in facts about Norway and the things shown in it are completely false.

Sagarika Chakraborty, on the other hand, claims that the Norwegian government is not telling the truth and is still spreading false rumors about the incident. It should be noted that this film is based on an incident in her life.  

About 12 years ago, the Norwegian Child Welfare Service (NCWS) took custody of Sagarika Chakraborty's two children. She lived in the city of Stavanger. Later, after diplomatic intervention by the Government of India and a lengthy trial in a Norwegian court, the two children were handed over to their families. They were later brought up by Sagarika Chakraborty in India. Sagarika said that till date, the Norwegian government has not expressed any remorse for the children being taken from their arms illegally.  

After the Norway incident, the incident grabbed headlines in India for months. At that time, there was a lot of resentment among the common people of India. In India, the echo of this matter was also heard in the Parliament. The then Foreign Minister SM Krishna also made a statement in Parliament on this issue. Now after so many years, a film based on this incident has once again fueled this old conflict between India and Norway. But this confrontation is now cultural rather than diplomatic.  

Children in parent's bed 

After the release of the film, the Norwegian Ambassador to India clarified that the parenting method in Norway may be different from that of India, but it cannot be said to be different in the mother's feelings or mother's love. He said in his article, 'Mrs. Chatterjee v. Norway' has created an impression that it is not acceptable in Norwegian culture for Indian parents to sleep with their children or sometimes feed them with their own hands.  

Freuden Land wrote: 'The film shows that the main cause of the incident was cultural differences. This is completely wrong. I don't want to go into the details of this incident, but I want to emphasize that in Norway putting a child to sleep or feeding him with your hands cannot be grounds for handing him over to alternative care.' 

He wrote that 'I also used to tell bedtime stories to my children at bedtime, hug them and love them and they would also sleep with us in our bed.'  

Freuden Land says that if a parent suddenly slaps a child on the cheek (sometimes a slap) for some reason, their child is not taken away from them. In such cases, the Child Welfare Service helps them by counseling them.  

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former Foreign Service officer Mani Shankar Iyer has said that it is well known that there are many flaws in the foster care system of children in many Western countries, including Norway. He said that scientific experiments have shown that children who grow up in foster care face more psychological problems than children who grow up in their families. 


  1. Yes you are right 👍 if any family is facing issues in parenting, counseling should be the solution not foster care. It's traumatic for parents and for kid as well to experience such things.


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