The discoveries of newborns (two of which were found dead) has put the issue back in the spotlight once again, and highlighted the desperate situation far too many women in the UAE find themselves in.
A Sharjah Police official said: “A newborn girl was found abandoned on Jamal Abdul Nasser Road on August 11. Another newborn boy was found on a rooftop in the Al Ramallah area on July 15. The body of a dead newborn baby was found in a sewage pipe in Sharjah Free Zone and a decomposed body of a newborn baby was found in a construction area in Al Mosla in July.”
The man in charge of child protection in the emirate has voiced his concern, telling 7DAYS that many women panic when faced with the consequences of the law after falling pregnant while unmarried in the UAE. The crime of getting pregnant outside of wedlock carries a prison sentence of up to 12 months and deportation for mother and baby.
Ahmed Al Tartour, Director of the Protection of Children’s Rights at Sharjah Social Services, said: “Those who resort to such a practice are either uneducated, poor or seeking a better life for their children in the UAE.”
He added that the issue of abandoned babies is a problem and urged women be responsible.
Al Tartour said: “Children found by police are sent to the child care shelters. Officials in charge of these shelters divide them into four categories; children of unknown parents, children of known mothers, children of detained women and child victims of domestic violence. All cases of abandoned children are reviewed by a committee.”
The committee also looks at finding a suitable home for abandoned children, who are treated as orphans. If the search for the biological parents proves to be pointless, the authorities enable the babies to be taken in by Emirati or expat families.
Couples who want to become guardians pf an abandoned child are reviewed by child protection centre committees. Then a court reviews their case and issues a no objection certificate.
Al Tartour said: “The Child Protection Department has the right to give the child to unmarried, divorced or widowed women whose age is not less than 30, or more than 50.
“The family that is willing to embrace the child has the right to give the child its first name, while the judge will give the father’s family and tribe name. The documents issued to the child should not show that he or she is an illegitimate child.”
One woman who would like to care for an abandoned baby spoke to 7DAYS. The 40-year-old Filipino, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I’m considering adopting a child. I’ve met a Filipino woman, in her 20s, who has given birth to a girl out of the wedlock.
“She gave birth at home and the father is of an Arab nationality. He fled the country. The girl is now one-month-old. However, the girl has no documents at all and that’s why I didn’t continue with the adoption procedures.”
Meanwhile, lawyer Barney Almazar, whose legal practice Gulf Law works with the Philippines Embassy, said that fear was the main cause in the cases he has dealt with.
He said: “I have dealt with 12 cases of unmarried pregnant woman and mothers since the beginning of this year. Those mothers didn’t give birth at hospitals because they fear going to jail and being deported.”
He said that when a woman is pregnant in the UAE the authorities check her and her husband’s passport.
Almazar said: “I have witnessed a situation where a Filipino mother abandoned her child to a Filipino family. This child has been moving from one Filipino family to another and she’s now seven years old. The girl doesn’t have any documents. Therefore, she can’t be enrolled in school.”