The only certainty is the heartbreak: two babies, several months apart in age, abandoned at the entrance to a Sharjah mosque. Speculation abounds not just about the identity of their mothers, but about what dire situations led them to make this choice. If the two women are identified it is likely that they will be arrested. There is unfortunate precedent to influence where this case is headed. There have been four babies abandoned in the Northern Emirates already this year. In one case in Ajman, a Filipina woman and Pakistani man were arrested and charged with adultery and endangering the life of a child. They have admitted the facts of the case. The father has stated he does not want to take responsibility for the woman or the baby, an abdication of duty that compounds having neglected them to begin with. The mother said that fear of the consequences of having a child out of wedlock drove her to abandon her child. Perhaps there are similar stories behind the recent Sharjah cases.
What would drive these women to break one of the most powerful human bonds? Their helplessness must have been wrenching and yet their situation is perhaps not so uncommon. These individual tragedies serve to draw back the curtain on a segment of this society usually hidden from view. There are thousands of young women who come here to work as housemaids or service staff who find themselves in dire predicaments. Their struggles remain largely anonymous. Where do they turn for help?
No one should be excused for such a flagrant abdication of personal responsibility as abandoning an infant. Trouble usually arrives as a result of one's own decisions. None of this changes the fact that there must be a better way for women to ensure that their children will be cared for other than dropping them in front of a mosque. The lives of these infants should be the foremost consideration. This society will be judged, as it should be, by how it treats its most vulnerable. The outpouring of sympathy and offers of foster care in past cases of child abandonment show that, at least in one sense, society has lived up to this test of its compassion.
The helplessness of the infants' mothers also deserves consideration. It is instinctive to judge them harshly but responding to what they have done cannot be simply the province of the criminal justice system. As the authorities search for these women, they would be mistaken to conduct a manhunt for hardened criminals. Instead, they should look for two frightened women, heartbroken by loss, in desperate need of help. There are likely to be other women out there facing a similar decision. That nobody is looking out for them is just one more influence upon them to make the wrong choice.